make it better

Dec 20

What it means to be a Trail Blazer

By make it better
Overcoming barriers to inspire others…
Ten years ago, Jorge was a 12 year old going in the wrong direction; skipping school to hang out with a tough crowd. Jorge’s mother reached out to Sue, the family’s health care provider at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center for help. Sue helped Jorge set a course that got him enrolled at the University of Portland. He’ll graduate this spring and now wants to go to medical school and eventually give back to the VGMHC.
From the preventable death of six year old Virginia Garcia in 1975 has come an organization bearing her name that has done immeasurable good in the community since. Today, the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center serves more than 34,000 patients in 130,000 encounters per year. In 2011, VGHC broke ground on a 35,000 square foot, state-of-the-art health care facility.
The new facility will allow the VGMHC to better fulfill its mission of providing high quality, comprehensive and culturally appropriate primary health with a special emphasis on those with barriers to receiving health care. More than 63% of the patients at VGMHC speak a language other than English.

Learning the value of community…
Bryan began at Self Enhancement Inc. when he was in the second grade. No one in his family had attended college, and at SEI he encountered a community that cared about him. Today, Brian is a senior at Morehouse College, majoring in Sociology, with a minor in Child Development. He already has a job as an elementary school teacher waiting for him in Brooklyn, New York after he graduates.
Thirty years ago, Self Enhancement Inc. started as a one-week summer basketball camp and since then has grown into a nationally recognized agency that provides minority youth and their families support to achieve academic and personal success.
Last year, 98% of seniors enrolled in SEI’s core program graduated from high school. Of those graduating seniors, 96% enrolled in college or post-secondary education graduated. Nearly 85% of students at SEI qualify for a free-or-reduced lunch program.

Building relationships to transform lives…
Jerry was a sixth grader who loved to read but was disengaged from school. He needed more instruction to stay on pace and eventually stopped going to class. Jerry’s mom enrolled him at Open Meadow and the difference sparked an immediate change. During his two years at Open Meadow, Jerry’s interests grew and by the end of his 8th grade year, he exceeded benchmarks in his core classes.
In 1971, Open Meadow began as a school for homeless youth to be educated in a small, relationship-based program that emphasized personal responsibility, academics and service to the community. Today, Open Meadow serves its mission at its middle school, high school and career services campuses in North Portland and through the Step Up program at four high schools.
At the end of the 2010-11 school year, 98% of middle school students and more than 96% of high school students were still in school. Of all the alternative schools in Oregon, Open Meadow has one of the lowest drop-out rates and more than 75% of students transitioned to post-secondary education or employment. In addition, 86% of Open Meadow high school seniors pass a college class prior to their graduation.

Transforming lives through validation…
Imagine being transferred between 49 different facilities with nothing more than one change of clothes to call your own. What if you were growing up in an environment where every family member had been incarcerated? Those are just a few of the stories that are common at St. Mary’s Home for Boys. The first young man is finally experiencing success and the second boy is now holding two jobs and recently completed a course in heavy machinery operation.
St. Mary’s Home for Boys has been caring for tens of thousands of the most troubled young men in Oregon for more than 120 years. Boys between the ages of 10-18 arrive at St. Mary’s when there are few options left for them. They arrive sometimes in shackles, but always in shock.
The transformation begins as they learn to take ownership for their behaviors and are shown by the staff that they have value as individuals. St. Mary’s Home for Boys offers both residential and day treatment programs. In the last 36 months, boys leaving St. Mary’s have a recidivation rate of less than 5%, creating futures with positive potential.

Providing hope and forging opportunities…
The Police Activities League Youth Center may not have what a kid is looking for, but it will have what a kid needs. For example, one PAL youth became involved during a summer camp at Portland State and it was his first time on a college campus. The support he received helped him realize there was more in store for his life than he thought there could be, and now he is a teen instructor who is preparing for college. Another youth was left homeless by her father and PAL became her home. The staff provided support and taught her that she had both value and potential. She’s now a self-sufficient college student on her way to a great future.
The Police Activities League offers a variety of programs, sports and support to more than 4,000 kids, many of whom come from single parent households, have family who are incarcerated and who have behavioral problems or learning disabilities. They soon learn that PAL offers them three things they may not have realized were possible: safety, hope and opportunity.

Starting new lives…
When she enrolled at a Portland high school, Metrah spoke four languages, but none of them were English. She had lived in three different countries, most recently Afghanistan. To address her language challenges, she got involved with the Upward Bound program through the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. She was a fast learner and developed into a leading student at her school. Next year, Metrah will study pre-med with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.
IRCO has been helping immigrants and refugees in Portland since 1976 and during that time has helped more than 150,000 families start their lives here in a positive, supported way. This mission has been achieved by offering services ranging from English language learning, naturalization, social adjustment and the International Language Bank, which provides translation and interpretation in more than 60 languages. More than half of the 31,000 people IRCO served last year.

Zach’s family life was unsettled by difficulties with the police. He lived in a bad neighborhood, but heard that the Wattles Boys and Girls Club was a place he could go. He did, and his life was never the same. The club provided afterschool snacks, help with homework and the opportunity to play and learn in a constructive, safe environment. While life was still tough, the club became Zach’s home away from home. Earlier this year, Zach became the first person in his family to enroll in college.
The Boys and Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan area is comprised of six clubs from Hillsboro to Camas. Last year, they collectively served more than 37,000 kids with the mission of enabling young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.
The clubs in greater Portland are facing the greatest difficulties: crime, poverty and unemployment rates are high. Despite those challenges, the Portland clubs ranked in the 98th percentile of all clubs in the Pacific Northwest for average daily attendance.


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