Rotary dollars, volunteerism helps students ‘Step Up’ in school, careers…and life
Four years ago, Pearl Rotary made a community service commitment: Rotarians would try to make a difference in the drop-out rate within Portland Public Schools.
PPRC’s effort would only have minuscule impact in a district with 47,000 students. Today 62% graduate, up from 57% a few years back. The number not graduating is “still abysmal,” said Open Meadow school’s Director Andrew Mason. But, he told Rotarians Dec. 4, “Your investment and what you do, with dollars and the time given to Step-Up, I promise you, is life-changing.”
Students who joined Step-Up four years ago, enrolling between eighth and ninth grade, “will be graduating…some are getting acceptance letters to colleges,” reported Program Manager Sierra Hill. For Step-Up, Rotarians have volunteered as tutors at Madison H.S., and also annually contributed dollars for summer camperships.
Open Meadow was founded in 1971 as an alternative school; it educates at a high school and middle school and through Step-Up and Career Services.
Students and coordinators shared the podium with students–three students each who are part of Step-Up and Career Services. Step-Up volunteers, said one Madison student, boasting about his GPA going from 2.8 to 3.8, “give you motivation and help you with everything.”
Career Services serves 16- to 21-year-olds in programs like advising, interviewing, college preparations, job shadowing, resume creation, etc, “Rotary has been a godsend,” said Eileen Schmidt, program coordinator, especially at networking fairs where volunteers visit with students and hear about their career plans.
Said one student: “(Career Services) is truly amazing. It opens up so many career doors and also personal doors on what you can do…and how you will take the steps to get there.”
Past President Don Barney has been an O.M. advocate and tutor since his club’s partnership began. He introduced the Tuesday morning program and also had a measure of pride when he heard his current student, Jimmy Mitchell, speak–with a wide smile–of the impact of his Step-Up tutor:
“I get a lot done. He keeps me focused.”
After the meeting, they posed together, both beaming.
To our friends at Pearl Rotary…
Open Meadow as a whole, and the Step-Up and Career Services staff and students in particular, want to thank you for inviting us to your Dec. 4th breakfast. Your members have been a source of mentorship and encouragement from our students, and we truly value our partnership. In thanks and appreciation, our students sent us some thoughts on what the morning meant to them.
“I have a goal to be successful in life and make a change to support where I am from. I would like to thank you guys for allowing us to join in your meeting and participate in a great experience.” – Royce Hayson, Step-Up student and sophomore at Madison High School.
“My goals in school are to have all passing grades and to have a better friendships with my teachers. I want to have a good paying job and a nice place with a girl, maybe. I want to appreciate Don and Nural for keeping me on task during Step Up even though I just wanted to start texting. Thanks, you guys, for all you do to help me, and I love meeting new people.” – Jimmy Mitchell, Step-Up student and sophomore at Madison High School
“I appreciated how the members welcomed us in their space the way they did. It was nice to share my story and to be honored with an unexpected award and positive comments afterward.” – Rasheeda Webber, Career Services student.
“I was all nervous at first but I learned a lot and felt welcomed. It was a good experience and I enjoyed meeting new people. They were nice and kind to me, and talking with people and being given an award told me they saw something good in me. That means a lot.” – Mykel Scott-Morton, Career Services student
“It was great and I was really surprised to get an award for achievement. I liked being able to talk about Open Meadow and to meet people over breakfast. One person even said he could talk about careers in marketing or sales since that’s what I’m interested in.” – Garrison Britton, Career Services student
We have a deep appreciation for all that you do.
–Andrew Mason, Step-Up and Career Services staff & students