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


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