Making a Difference
Each day at Open Meadow, students experience success in overcoming barriers and reaching for their dreams.
Training for fitness…and life
by Donald Q. Smith
Khino is certain that his high school experience at Open Meadow, followed by his participation, as a young adult, in Career Services’ mentoring program, changed his life.
“I can do anything I desire in life,” Khino, 21, asserts. “But I needed someone to tell me that until it stuck in my mind.”
That someone was Von Ray Johnson, a professional athletic trainer in downtown Portland and a volunteer mentor for Khino the past four years. Without his degree from Open Meadow and Von Ray, life likely would not have led to two years of employment in Portland Parks and Recreation or occasional work as a “fit model” for Nike.
Gates Millenium Scholar
Vinnie can afford to speak softly. His accomplishments speak for themselves. [Enrolling in Fall 2009] at Chicago’s Columbia College, one of the top music business schools in the country, he brings something to the table, having performed around town with his hip-hop group, Turf Noize.
“I want to be a record producer,” he says. “I’m gonna do that.”
Vinnie has that kind of confidence. He’s been an accomplished athlete as well as a high-performing student at Roosevelt’s math and science-oriented POWER Academy (3.50 GPA). He also has left an impression on the youth of his St. Johns neighborhood, having mentored and taught children at James John Elementary School for three years.
Staying on Track
By Laurie Harquail
At public high school, Kelsi was a good student – for a while. Then he started to slip. Limited teacher attention, lax rules, and frequent fights on campus were just a few of things that turned Kelsi off from school. He started skipping class just to hang out. After a while, Kelsi realized, “I wasn’t on a good trajectory.”
A friend recommended Open Meadow, which Kelsi describes as “a school that keeps me on track.” Like all Open Meadow students, Kelsi has access to staff members who provide one-on-one attention and encouragement. His counselor Kris Bumpus and teacher/advocate, Mark Burton work directly with Kelsi to make sure he stays on course to pursue his college and career goals. And, although Open Meadow students receive much support – they know that ultimately it is up to them to succeed. According to Kelsi, “I’ll fall off only if I let myself fall off.”
Power to the People
By Laurie Harquail
For Abby, Open Meadow hasn’t just been a school – but a place to develop intellectually and forge connections to the larger community. Recently, she participated in City Corps, a program that allows students to help solve local issues. In this case, the group tackled tensions that exist between teens, gangs, and the police – then presented their solution to the mayor.
Abby’s outreach skills don’t stop there. In the fall of 2008, she flew to Chicago to represent Open Meadow at a conference for smaller alternative schools. She polished her public speaking skills there, addressing a large group of educators from all over the nation.
Abby attributes much of her success out in the world to Open Meadow’s “strict but supportive” environment where students are expected to perform. For Abby, the flexible-yet-structured program, small classes, and consistent support from her teachers and advocate have helped her thrive both at school and beyond.
Curtis Connects to His Future
By Laurie Harquail
For Curtis, public high school wasn’t really working. Faced with demands at home that included helping care for a little brother, he often missed days. However, even with sporadic attendance, Curtis still managed to pass his classes. Deep down, Curtis knew he needed to find a situation where he was not just getting by – but actually getting an education. A friend recommended Open Meadow, and at the end of his sophomore year Curtis enrolled. He is now a senior and on track to graduate in June 2009, with plans to attend college next fall.
Curtis attributes much of his success to Open Meadow’s supportive environment. The school feels more like a close-knit extended family rather than a traditional hierarchal school. According to Curtis, his teachers at Open Meadow feel like partners in learning. At public school, his teachers felt more like distant authority figures. Curtis explains, “At Open Meadow, I’m not just taking classes; I’m not just passing classes – I’m actually learning.”
“OK, world, here I am.”
Serena thought school was boring. But soon after she enrolled at Open Meadow, something changed. She went from sitting home alone in her bedroom at night to delivering a speech in front of 500 people in Washington, DC. “I love Open Meadow and everything it stands for,” Serena says, “because they don’t just say, ‘Here’s your lesson, and I expect you to get A’s.’ They say, ‘Here’s your lesson, and this is how you can apply it to life.’” Today, Serena celebrates her third year as a Disability Claims Processor and is preparing to start college. She grins when she’s asked if Open Meadow changed her: “When I stepped out of Open Meadow, I felt more confident. It was like, ‘OK, world, here I am. Show me what you’ve got, because I can take it on.’”
Rafiq finds school success
Rafiq was failing every class. “I didn’t care about school,” he admits. Despite his failing grades, he was on his way to high school. That’s when his counselor suggested he join Step Up. During his freshman year, Rafiq attended the program nearly every day. “It is good that I had people pushing me,” he reflects, “people that expect a lot from me.” Sierra Hill, a Step Up Program Coordinator, admired his newfound tenacity. “His success freshman year did not come easy for him. He had to work for it, and it has been a joy watching him mature.” Today, Rafiq is passing all of his classes, but that’s not what he remembers most about Step Up. “I have learned to be responsible and to take responsibility for my actions, and I feel much better about myself.”
Open Meadow prepares Derek for a career
Two years ago, Derek dropped out of high school. Today, he has more than he dreamed: a diploma from Open Meadow High School and a full-time job with The Standard. It’s a dream made possible by Career Services. “The program opened my eyes to the work world,” Derek recalled. “I learned how to prepare for interviews, dress for work—even things like how to write corporate emails.” Kristin Walsh, Derek’s supervisor, was so impressed with the program that she also hired an intern and a temporary worker. “They are great team players, which is stressed in their Open Meadow education,” she said. “Working with Open Meadow makes sense for us on many levels,” says Jodi Jordan, former Director of Public Affairs at The Standard. “Our relationship with Open Meadow is a model for us as we work with local nonprofits. We’re able to support a great organization and individuals like Derek who are now part of The Standard team.”
Josh found the support he needed at Open Meadow
At age 25, my life is on a good track. I am a top salesman for a national company, own two homes in Vancouver, WA and am engaged to be married in February. I am ranked nationally in the top 10% of triathletes in the country and hope to turn professional in the next couple of years.
But things were not always this good for me. I was raised by a single mom in a broken home. At a young age I was pretty much left to fend for myself and was a regular defendant in the juvenile court system by my freshman year in high school. I was considered “gang affiliated” and had charges ranging from stolen cars to 2nd degree robbery. I was also expelled from all Portland Public Schools and was a run-away teen living on the streets. At that time in my life I thought this was the “cool” thing to do.
Khino, Open Meadow graduate and mentoring program participant.
Vinnie, Open Meadow Step Up alum and Roosevelt High School graduate
Kelsi, Open Meadow High School student
Abby, Open Meadow High School student