Hardships and Challenges: Behind the Scenes of Event Planning

Written by: Mery Gurung
Edited by: Carly Chan

I believe experiences can take you to many places beyond a classroom. For the last couple months, my team and I  held our very first volunteer event–Social Justice Poster Art. Our goal for this event was to encourage young activists to express their views and concerns about specific social justice issues that are happening in the world right now in the form of poster art. This idea was a collective idea created by leaders who brainstormed during after school meetings. This event was not only for students but also for non-profits who volunteered alongside our students as they painted and conversed about career related topics. My hope is that students who attended the event left with more knowledge and awareness on current issues while also having fun with friends. 

Just four months ago, I was a stranger to Passion Impact. Joining Passion Impact was one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout high school. Fast forward three weeks in, I was already given the role to become a part of the team planning for the Social Justice Poster Art event. From knowing almost nothing about event planning to being able to put together an event in just a few weeks, I can see the transformation within myself. I first felt clueless and anxious but also excited as this is the first event I have ever planned; I have no idea as to what the outcome would be, what obstacles we would face during planning, and if the students attending would genuinely enjoy taking part in such an event.

Getting started was definitely a little rocky. Although we finished our event with five  people in the team, we only had two people in the team for the first two months: my partner, Kayla, and I. I never realized how many different concepts went into planning an event before this. By making sure we had planned every big and small piece, I learned to pay attention to details. We got the ball rolling in the beginning with the help of Stefan. He would help with the process of brainstorming by showing us videos that presented us with new concepts. He provided us with a binder filled with pages that consisted of organization layouts and checklists. It helped us to keep track of what we had accomplished. He also introduced me to the administrative side of our volunteer management database (Givepulse), where I wrote a description of what the event looks like for students and non-profits. I also approved volunteer hours and reflections that were recorded by students and non-profits.

One of the challenges for me was to hunt for the best materials, one being poster boards that can hold up paint well but at the same time be affordable. Originally, the plan was to order them online, but we feared that the material would not be what we had hoped so we changed our minds. Just as we predicted, when we saw the boards in person, they  failed all of our expectations. At that point, our options were very limited. That was when we realized that instead of searching for already perfectly made poster boards that are impossible to find, it would be much easier if we cut the poster boards ourselves by using a stencil of our ideal poster size. This experience taught me to think and react quickly on my feet which is useful in the future because I will always be running into obstacles no matter what courses I take in life.

The Social Justice Poster Art event was my first ever event that I helped plan and definitely will not be my last. By being put into situations far beyond my comfort zone, it stretched my leadership skill sets and challenged my abilities. These skills that I gained will impact the rest of my journey as a leader and as I am building my career in the future. Seeing how I grew from this experience was certainly surprising and crazy. From having little to no knowledge about event planning to knowing just that much more is a big step for me that I would not have thought to take four months ago before joining Passion Impact. Even with the moments of discomfort and stress, I consider this an unforgettable and satisfying experience in my life.


Passion Explorer

“I see firsthand how volunteerism can change someone’s life.”

Adrianna Davis

High School Program Coordinator, Activist, Lifelong Learner

Walking into the PI office on 51st and Powell, no longer will you only see a red-headed guy sitting next to the window. You will be greeted by a bubbly and warm smile from a new addition to the PI staff family, our High School Program Coordinator–Adrianna Davis. 

Growing up in Portland, Adrianna is upfront about the systemic oppression that she experiences as a queer person of color. “I understand the culture of Portland in the sense that it is progressive in its own ways and strives to be that. But it strives to be that in a way that is racially colorblind.” Instead of erasing and ignoring the negative impacts that marginalized communities face in the community, Adrianna is determined to acknowledge and advocate for those whose voices aren’t heard while serving the youth.

Despite double majoring in Microbiology and Sociology, Adrianna finds herself circling back to jobs that connect her back to people and the community. “I have these two random degrees that didn’t really mean anything,” she jokingly said, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do at first because I didn’t know what jobs existed in the world.” Working in the Cultural Resource Center (CRC) at OSU for three years opened the door for Adrianna to discover her desire to work closely with her community. Serving students through the CRC allowed Adrianna to learn a lot about herself and practice the skills that are needed in a job setting. After returning to Portland, Adrianna hopped around multiple jobs and couldn’t find one that clicked with her. “I used to work at a job that I hated,” she said, “I understand how important it is to have passion for your job.”

Adrianna has a personal connection with volunteerism that shows to her how significant of an impact it can bring. “My mom has a physical disability that bound her to her wheelchair. The two days of a week that my mom gets to go volunteer would be the happiest days of her life,” Adrianna said. Her mom “used to be depressed, but that is the only thing that can get her out of bed.” Being a witness to how connection with the community can change a person, she confessed, “I see firsthand how volunteerism can change someone’s life.” Indeed, a connection, a relationship, an experience coming out of a volunteering experience, even if it is only for one time, can change one’s life. Adrianna looks forward to build and solidify relationships between school, students, and nonprofits to further explore her passion.


Re-organize, students said.

I want to talk about our new mission – We engage youth in a lifelong exploration of career development through volunteerism and education. The five people in the room who created this had never met as a group, yet all had invested time in Passion Impact for multiple years. To spend eight hours of a Sunday collaborating in our office with the goal to build a basic strategic plan was a long-shot to say the least. We all believe in revolutionizing the education system. We all believe in the power of volunteerism and how it can catalyze youth to search for something greater than themselves. We all want to see youth become passionate about giving back to their community through their future careers. Connecting those three areas was already a no-brainer for all of us.

This was the first strategic plan that we’ve ever had and it was an exciting process! I received insight from multiple executive directors, researched on my own, and asked our current Board their thoughts on strategic planning meetings. We needed a jumpstart, a reorganization of what Passion Impact is and stands for. Our result was to focus on building a stronger foundation of capacity. I want to add that we also received input and edits from the remainder of our Board, our committees, and, most importantly, our students.

You may know that we have held 11 Volunteer Fairs over the past four years and that students were the main orchestrators of the planning, implementation, and evaluation of 10. In November, during the evaluation week of our the Fall 2018 Volunteer Fair, students came to the conclusion that despite their best efforts and despite the skills they gleaned from their experiences, they did not see or feel the impact that they wanted. Due to this, they suggested that we alter the programs spurring our refocus on only volunteer events. What this means is that we increase our relationship efforts with our nonprofit partners; we increase our exposure on a day-to-day basis in school classrooms and clubs; and we focus on connecting students to easily accessible ongoing volunteer opportunities. This has also prompted us to produce more volunteering events on school premises and to invite community members and partners to the school to engage students during the school day. To help organize these experiences, we now use GivePulse, which is a platform that helps students track and reflect on their volunteering ultimately resulting in an ongoing volunteer transcript. Students can continually refer to this transcript and their written reflections to assist in applying to scholarships, colleges, trade schools, and careers as they continue in their educational aspirations. We have since recruited over 100 Franklin High School students to use the platform and will continue to ramp up our recruitment efforts toward our summer programming.

Franklin Beautification was our first volunteer experience on FHS’s campus on April 4th. Over 40 students came out to clean up over 15 lbs of trash with eight teachers and staff. Two of our partners from the Friends of Mt. Tabor Weed Warriors and Cascade Forest Conservancy led groups throughout the school while engaging with students to talk about potential careers in the environmental industry. After volunteering, 15 students sat down and for 45 minutes, engaged in deep reflection while filling out their CRLEs (Career Related Learning Experiences) of which two are required for graduation. We are aiming to host our next beautification with more partners on May 22nd and, based on student suggestions, will split the volunteering into two shifts – during and after school to accommodate all students.

After students graduate this June, they may choose to attend Portland Community College, which many of our previous students have chosen to do. Having started our relationship with Portland Community College and their Community-Based Learning Department (CBL) over 3 years ago, our progress with the ACE (Advocate for Community Engagement) Program has been slow. Since January, however, we have on-boarded and fully trained two PCC Community Service Work-Study (CSWS) students (The Work-Study distinction, for those of you who may not know,  requires that students who apply for Work-Study must live in households that are designated low-income by the Federal Government). Our ACEs’ advertise volunteer opportunities, CBL classes, and CSWS positions to PCC students across the city in an effort to activate students’ full potential educational opportunities. Both of the students who hold ACE positions matriculated from our programs at Franklin High School and, as we continue the relationships with both schools, we aim to make this pipeline more accessible to the underserved youth with whom we work.

I want to give you a window into my heart to see my guiding beliefs because I feel that if you’re reading this, you may mirror the sentiments that I’m sharing with you. I believe that each student deserves to give their gift and to be encouraged by their educational institutions. I believe that students currently in our educational system are being held to standards that are not acceptable for the future that’s going to hit them square in the face. We need to provide them with the resources, experiences, and support that prepare them to exceed the expectations they have for themselves. This means we need to challenge their status quo. This means we need to meet them where they are and invite them to engage more. This means we need to make school more fun. This means we need to make the time outside of school more fun. This means we need to take the time to listen to what they want to do and to guide them in ways about which they may have never been aware. I believe that volunteering is the community taking on the burden of nurturing our youth and, as community members, we have the responsibility to lift up all students, especially those who have been disenfranchised due the systemic issues that exist in our American society.

As we move forward, I am committed to leading Passion Impact as an equitable organization. Every student is welcome and to open our doors in this way will are required to constantly revisit how we are including students, their parents, our partners, and our community in our decisions. It will continue to prove difficult and I am excited for the challenge.

Stefan Peierls
4/22/19




Finding Passion

When I was 12 years old, my parents broke the news to me that we were picking up everything we owned and moving to a new state: Oregon. I was devastated. The thought of leaving behind the life I knew and the relationships I had formed seemed heartbreaking. What was in store on this new time in my life? And more importantly, how would I fit in?

I was naturally quiet and pensive in nature. When you’re shy and reserved, it’s incredibly hard to make friends and to have your voice be heard. It seemed like the entire support system that I had created for myself would disappear forever with this move, and I would have to start all over. This seemed so daunting. As I was dropped off to my first day at a new school, I was met with a feeling of unease. Everything seemed so strange and different- and lonely. For months, I struggled to make friends with people who shared the same interests and values as me. I wondered if I would ever feel confident in myself and the gifts that I had to share.

One day, my parents suggested that I join a youth organization that they had been actively involved in when they were kids, known as Job’s Daughters International. The prospect seemed simple enough- join this club, meet new people, and develop friendships! In time, however, I learned far more than that. You see, this organization was centered around a concept they called “philanthropy.” We, as youth, were encouraged to volunteer within our communities, raise funds for social causes, and be in charge of our own events and activities. It was fun while learning leadership skills- and I was having the time of my life! Everything I thought I couldn’t do- such as hosting and planning statewide events, and giving presentations to hundreds of people- became a reality of me. My 8 years within Job’s Daughters International gave me the confidence to be a leader and enact change within the world around me. Not only did I forge lifelong friendships with fellow youths across the country, but I was able to see the passion and skills I had within me.

When I learned about Passion Impact and its mission, I was instantly reminded of my experiences as a youth volunteer. Volunteering shaped me into the person I am today, while simultaneously making an impact on lives around me. I learned to tap into my specific skill set and passions, to inspire and encourage others. I also gained insight into what makes me unique and what I want to spend my life doing.

Not every youth gets an opportunity like this. Various social, economic, and geographic obstacles can impact young people in their growth. Organizations like Passion Impact & Job’s Daughters International, however, can fill that gap and provide the resources these youth need to reach their full potential. As we journey into this years adventures with Passion Impact, I hope you get to learn more about the students involved and their stories. With your help and continued support, we can continue to provide youth an outlet to help their communities thrive, and to find their passions. Sometimes, a person’s true self is just bubbling under the surface- and needs a spark to let it come to life.


Students Run the World

As youth, we all tapped into our creativity and imagination. We would develop ideas on how we wanted our world to be. In our wildest dreams, we imagined the change we would create if given the chance. The world was ours and the power to shape it lay in our hands.

The youth of today share that same idealism and it has been motivating them to create significant change in their communities. This spark towards activism has only become stronger in light of recent events. March, 2018, marked a notable time in history- where thousands of students across the country coordinated school walk-outs to protest against current gun laws and violence. This solidarity came in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which recently was the site of one of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Through press releases, video segments, interviews, and organized protests, these students have been leading their communities on a scale that is unprecedented.

Portland’s own Franklin High School was just one of many schools that participated in the walk-outs. On March 14th, many Franklin students used their voices to inspire change and gun reform. One student organization, Oregon Students Empowered, helped organize walk-outs at both Franklin High School and Beaverton High School. It was formed for one compelling reason, which they shared: “students have the power to make a lot of change that will impact our future.” Students truly believe in the work they are doing and are challenging themselves to play a more active role in their community, their State and their Country.

If youth are able to garner widespread attention and support for social change, what does that mean for the future? At the heart of all activism is the spirit of its volunteers. Students are volunteering their time and voice to encourage political, environmental, and social change. This involvement helps shape them into our future professionals and our leaders of tomorrow.

Volunteerism, whether it be motivated by activism or by the desire to positively impact the people of a community, is a platform from which students can derive and implement constructive ideas of change as well as to discover their passions and use their skills to better their communities. As long as students continue to volunteer and inspire others to do the same, society will continue to evolve. The world that we imagined so long ago is on its way to becoming a reality.

 

Erin Thacker
Passion Impact
Public Relations Intern

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Oregon Students Empowered; BHS Students Participating in one of several walkouts across Oregon to gain awareness for school shootings.

 





Next Steps with Franklin High School

We have heard it over and over again.

“I don’t know where to look for volunteering”

Our answer up until now has been to have students tell us their interests and then we sift through all of the volunteering opportunities available until we find something that matches – almost like the eHarmony of volunteering. There are many problems with this approach though. In searching for opportunities, we use large amounts of time and resources. Time and resources that only allow us to reach a small population of students. On top of that, it may take multiple iterations of volunteering for us to find the right one for a student. Students lose motivation while waiting for us to find something that fits.

The largest problem of all is that it does not encourage a habit of volunteering. We end up being the crutch for students and once they graduate or leave the city, they don’t know where to look for the opportunities we found for them.

This is why it is imperative that we help students understand what resources they have at their fingertips, how to use them, and why knowing and using them is pertinent to their lives.

Here is an easy comparison with which we all can associate:

By giving a man to fish, we feed him for a day. By teaching a man to fish, we feed him for a lifetime.

In order to make this a sustainable model, we must add another step.

By teaching a man how best to teach others how to fish, we feed the community for generations.

The fall Xplore and Ignite program will have students teaching other students how to use their resources. Then, to use these resources and actually volunteer. Next, to understand what skills and capabilities were enabled through volunteering applying them to their resume. The final step is the most important, though.

Why? Why is all of it important? We will reflect on the entire experience and knowing what it means to have gone through the program and how it can apply to each student’s future. With excitement, we take our first steps into this fall Xplore and Ignite program with Franklin High School.