UPS Swan Island employees received a resounding THANK YOU from Open Meadow students this morning for the record-setting $132,000 they contributed to this year’s United Way campaign. United Way supported Open Meadow’s equity initiative which has made extraordinary progress towards eliminating the racial academic achievement gap at Open Meadow. UPS has supported United Way projects with a whopping $1 billion plus in contributions over the last 20 years.
Open Meadow is very pleased that the City, TriMet, and PPS came together to support Youth Pass. Serving 85% low income youth this makes a big deal in bridging barriers for our students in getting to school. For full details, check out The Oregonian article earlier this week.
Open Meadow has been part of the greater Portland community for more than 40 years, but today the work we do feels more important than ever!
Last year, Oregon’s population of students experiencing homelessness reached its peak and, according to the Oregon Department of Education, more than 3,500 students in Portland area school districts alone are counted as “homeless.” As stated in The Oregonian, this staggering number of youth in unstable housing includes those living in cars, in shelters, on their own, or with relatives, while also pursuing an education. Under these stressful circumstances, students must overcome barriers in a pursuit for academic and personal success. In the public education system especially, homeless youth can struggle to find support, make connections, and engage in school.
Open Meadow has sought to serve and support all students, including those experiencing homelessness, since it was founded as a drop-in center for high-risk youth in 1971. Originally established in a downtown storefront, Open Meadow Learning Center fostered a community for Portland’s street youth. While the student population and Open Meadow’s programs have since evolved, today our mission and motives remain the same.
In fact, Open Meadow still serves an impressive number of youth living in homelessness. In the 2011-2012 school year, 19% of our middle school students and 16% of our high school students qualified as “homeless,” in contrast to the 3% of students in Portland Public Schools.
At Open Meadow, our community provides the stability and support necessary for students to find post-secondary success. The experience of homelessness is just one of many stories our students have to share, and unstable housing does not define the youth of Open Meadow. Despite these barriers, Open Meadow students are consistently improving their math and literacy skills, earning credits toward graduation, and accessing post-secondary education and employment opportunities!
I truly believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been rolling over in his grave this past weekend with a huge smile on his face as he watched our Open Meadow community come together across race and difference to realize his dream. This weekend 30 students and staff—a talented, beautiful mix of brown, black, and white—from across Open Meadow programs joined together at Camp Collins to honor Dr. King’s legacy. We continued his work by facing the racial divide in this country and in our classrooms head on and worked to create a better vision for how we can connect with one another, make space for multiple perspectives, and interrupt the racism we witness in our everyday lives. It truly took my breath away to see how our staff and students take care of one another, truly listen and hear one another, and help feed a sense of worth in one another. As we closed our retreat, one Southeast Asian student who has struggled to feel anything but shame in who he is turned to an Asian staff member he spent time with all weekend and said, “for the first time in my life I think I feel just a little bit of pride in being who I am.” Thank you Open Meadow for reminding me of why I love working here and how proud I am in what we do everyday with our students.
Kate Woicke, Step Up Interim Director
Open Meadow appreciates the generous support from Bank of America over the last decade. This year they sponsored and provided an amazing group of volunteers for Open Meadow Middle School’s annual Thanksgiving meal, and presented us with an additional $15,000 check to support our Transition program. With partners like Bank of America, Open Meadow students feel honored and celebrated. What a special day! Thank you, Bank of America, for all that you do for our community.
We are pleased to announce that Oregon Business magazine recently named Open Meadow as one of the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon. Thanks to our amazing staff and leadership team for fostering an outstanding workplace!