New program works to create racial equity for high school and college students through service.
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
Fifty thousand dollars can make a huge difference in anyone’s life. It’s not often an opportunity like that comes around. But this year it did for Campus Compact of Oregon, an organization that has supported the development of service and civic engagement on college and university campuses throughout the state since 1996. Thanks to a NobleCause grant to promote volunteerism, Campus Compact of Oregon now has the necessary funds to begin an exciting new program called REACH - Racial Equity Across College and High school.
The organization has always been committed to increasing community involvement and collaborative learning both on and off campus. With the NobleCause grant, they can expand their focus to create social capital and civic agency as they work to address educational inequities affecting students of color and students who are the first in their family to attend college.
“REACH brings college and high school students who share a common identity together to work on service-learning projects that address community needs,” says Josh Todd, executive director of Campus Compact of Oregon.
“By focusing on students of color and students who are the first in their family to attend college, we believe we can increase the college student's sense of agency and ethic of service. This supports their academic engagement and provides positive role models for the high school students who may not have other role models who attended college.”
While the program is new for Campus Compact of Oregon, it builds on the work they have done across Oregon through other similar programs like their College Access Corps.
Todd admits that the capacity of higher education to partner with their local K-12 schools is often limited due to shrinking resources. The NobleCause grant gives REACH the support to bring college and high school students together to create service-learning projects that benefit the community.
“Funding concerns are among the leading setbacks for organizations working toward social responsibility and cultivating sustained volunteerism,” says Wesley Barnett, managing partner for NobleHour and parent company TreeTop Commons. “Projects like REACH demonstrate that there are countless ideas out there to bring lasting change and improvements to communities nationwide, and we’re excited to help organizations like Campus Compact of Oregon continue to pay it forward.”
Launched last fall, the NobleCause grant competition asked high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge. Hundreds of organizations nationwide competed for the funding to help nurture acts of good and inspire greater civic-mindedness and volunteerism. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level.
“The support of NobleCause is foundational to REACH existing,” says Todd. “We will support 20 campuses across Oregon through micro-grants of $500 and larger mini-grants of $5,000.”
In addition to the micro and mini grants, Campus Compact of Oregon will train up to 65 college students to serve as lead organizers on their campus for their own K-12 service-learning projects. The college students will receive training on volunteer and project management, racial justice and equity, and positive youth development. There are no required skills for the K-12 students beyond a desire to plan and implement a service-project.
The lead organizers will receive more in-depth training through a three-day overnight retreat. In addition to learning about high quality service project planning, they will also explore how to effectively discuss and share their personal stories and identities to build connections with the K-12 students. The training will also provide an understanding of the systemic and institutional barriers that create the disparities seen in educational outcomes for students of color and first generation students.
Campus Compact staff members are currently developing the curriculum to train the college student leaders. Todd says the training will focus on understanding racial identities and exploring the racial framework that has promoted whiteness and dominant cultural values as the norm and standard for all people to emulate. “By interrogating our definition of success, as well as the policies we put in place to reward or punish those who succeed or fail, we can become more racially aware and generate new ways of being that support the success of all students. For example, admission standards, which heavily weight the SAT or other standardized tests, have been shown to benefit white students over students of color. If schools don't allow for students to show other ways to prove they can be successful in college, it will immediately limit the diversity of their student body and place a barrier to college access for anyone who doesn't perform well on one standardized exam.”
REACH is envisioned as a near-peer model so Todd expects the majority of college students to be in their late teens and early 20's and the majority of the K-12 students to be high school students, ages 14 - 18.
“We anticipate 240 college students and 240 K-12 students (1-1 matches) to participate,” says Todd. “We will encourage our 60 college student leaders to each recruit three additional students on their campus for a total of 240 college students minimum.”
Todd says their college partners will identify and recruit college students to participate. They will also leverage existing relationships with local K-12 partners they currently work with or use the support from the NobleCause grant to establish new partnerships with local K-12 schools.
The mini-grant awardees will be selected this July. The college student leaders will begin training and planning for their campus K-12 project in October. The partnership projects with the high school students should launch in January after winter break. Todd expects some of the projects to be similar to programs they’ve coordinated in the past. “We’ve had college and high school students clean and repair books to ensure pre-school and elementary school children have access to books in their home, participate in school-wide clean ups, create learning gardens, and help with trash and graffiti removal from neighborhoods.
Todd is passionate about the program and eager for it to begin. He believes REACH will lead to positive changes in a number of areas including the college students' sense of belonging and connection on campus and the high school students' belief that college is an attainable goal. He also sees it contributing to an increase in the sense of civic duty and agency achieved through the planning and execution of local service-learning projects.
Todd says an added bonus of the program will be a positive effect on student retention, graduation, and college access (for the high school students). This will be achieved through the sharing of knowledge and experience between the college and high school students, including information like how to apply for scholarships, how to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and what it is like being on campus for the first time.
The campus K-12 projects will run through June of 2017. Campus Compact of Oregon hopes REACH will be an ongoing program and is currently seeking additional support to continue the program after NobleCause funding ends.
The following campuses are confirmed participants: Blue Mountain Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Clackamas Community College, Concordia University, Lane Community College, Linfield College, Linn-Benton Community College, Marylhurst University, Mt. Hood Community College, Oregon Coast Community College, Oregon State University, Pacific University, Portland Community College, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, Tillamook Bay Community College, Umpqua Community College, University of Oregon, University of Portland, and Warner Pacific College.
For more information about Campus Compact of Oregon and their REACH program, contact Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to volunteer with organizations like Campus Compact of Oregon? Sign up for your free NobleHour account to find meaningful service opportunities near you!
Founded by the presidents of Portland State University and Willamette University, Campus Compact of Oregon is the largest network of higher education institutions in the state and the only nonprofit representing two-year, four-year, public and private colleges and universities. It is a state affiliate chapter of Campus Compact, a national coalition of over 1,100 college and university presidents dedicated to promoting service-learning, civic engagement, and community service in higher education.
The NobleCause grants, organized by NobleHour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, Florida. Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, two in college and one in high school. She is constantly learning from them and loves volunteering for their schools and sports teams. Writing about people and organizations who make a difference, is one the best aspects of her job!