Think, Talk, Transform Our Community...Together
If you’ve been a part of this interactive and dynamic series, then you know that MFS agog discussions inspire and create connections for real change. While complex social issues don’t have simple solutions, nonprofits are major players in collaborative efforts to solve them.

Moderated by Metropolitan Family Service CEO Judy Strand, MFS agog discussions offer the opportunity to engage with local experts from education, healthcare, business and government to share valuable perspectives and discover how the social service sector offers critical – often missing – pieces to improve the systems that support us all.

Mind the Gaps to Build Youth Success

On March 12, MFS convened the first agog discussion of 2015. PGE hosted this lively event where community leaders participated in a discussion on youth success and access to services.

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PGE Corporate Social Responsibility Community & Education Specialist, Kimberly Howard; Director, Corporate Social Responsibility PGE & Executive Director, PGE Foundation, Kregg Arntson; and MFS Chief Executive Officer, Judy Strand.

Discussion Highlights and Themes

  • Applied learning: This gap primarily impacts students in low income communities. Inevitably, a lack of applied learning opportunities leads to lower achievement and because those who are under resourced are predominantly from communities of color, the options for these students are disproportionately less.
  • Learning loss over summer: In between school years, students may lose up to two-thirds of what they have recently learned. This isn’t necessarily true for students from high resourced families; some even show gains during the summer due to participating in enrichment activities. The cumulative result of summer learning loss is that low income students are less likely to graduate from high school and less likely to pursue a post-secondary degree.
  • Significant disparities for students of color: School administrators often discipline students of color with suspensions or expulsions at rates 3.5 times higher than those of white students. This pattern exists despite studies that reveal that students of color do not demonstrate behavioral issues more frequently than white students.

Some of the high points in our community that were identified:

There is good work being done cross sector and cross agency to support students and families.

  • Reynolds School District (RSD) is working to create a community that’s prosperous; where people have a strong connection to purpose that they then share with others. High school graduation and career/college pathways are the primary desired outcomes. RSD is grateful for their partnership with MFS Community Schools because they are not able to shoulder the responsibility alone. Through this partnership, a variety of strategies are employed to ensure attendance and nurture student success.
  • Library services are offered free to the community. During the summer, some children spend a good portion of their days in the library without food. A grant from the Department of Education enabled library staff to provide lunch to these children and their families.
  • The Coalition of Communities of Color has inspired many leaders and key organizers to take action to address disparities in our community. Work is being done to cultivate leadership from communities of color that’s rooted in what communities want and also develop leaders who value collaboration.

Some of the work we still need to do: 

  • Bringing together and connecting the full lifespan in a given community, and supporting everyone, creates a healthy, engaged, and prosperous community.
  • Teacher preparation in higher education must match the reality of today’s classroom.
  • Centralized access systems for social services would benefit from standardized eligibility requirements. Collective impact models require funder flexibility to standardize access to social services.
  • It’s vital that we help children at the specific point they fall behind so we don’t lose them completely. One challenge is that students experience differential access to resources to help catch them back up; supports are available in some schools and not in others.

Closing thoughts

Efforts that expand access for low resourced communities (such as community schools serving neighborhood hubs, libraries that offer public access to resources, and systemic partnerships that bridge gaps for students) have created a strong foundation in our community. This is a time when there is shared interest among leaders from human service, education, business, and government to close the gaps and end the disparities that persist in our community. We appreciate the insights shared and the questions posed by all.

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 A special thank you to
Portland General Electric
for hosting this agog discussion.

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Ideas shared and connections made at agog discussions enrich our existing programs, opening the doors for innovating new programs to move the dial on our collective impact.

Interested? Connect with Heather to learn more about this unique series: heatherj@metfamily.org | 503.232.0007 ext 152

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agog promotes
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