Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yellow Brick Road & Reed College: Reaching Out

One of the great characteristics of Yellow Brick Road is our ability to go into the community and educate potential allies, stakeholders, and concerned citizens on issues related to youth homelessness. This form of outreach is every bit as critical as the kind we provide on the streets directly to the most vulnerable youth. Just in the past 6 months Yellow Brick Road has provided free trainings and presentations to Milwaukee Lutheran Church, Riverdale High School, In Other Words Books, Palisades Elementary School, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, and Reed College. Through our rigorous engagement with the community Yellow Brick Road has fostered a particularly rewarding relationship with Reed College that has culminated in our recent partnership as a Federal Work Study (FWS) site.

The Reed FWS is an off-campus internship opportunity that allows students on financial aid to earn their required work study by volunteering with non-profit organizations, schools, and government agencies. In August 2007 Yellow Brick Road became a partner organization, actively recruiting Reed students to join our nightly YBR teams in downtown Portland. Since that time YBR has trained nearly 20 Reed students, approximately 5 students per semester, to conduct outreach among homeless young people who are quite often their own age. Currently, Reed students account for nearly half of our nightly volunteer outreach volunteers! At least two of these students have been so impassioned by their work with YBR that they’ve redirected their course of study toward community services. Two other Reed volunteers have since been hired on as substitute workers in the Janus Youth shelter programs, Streetlight and Porchlight. Reed’s Students for Education, Empowerment and Direct Service (S.E.E.D.S.) program has been instrumental in this linkage and coordinate closely with YBR to recruit and support their students in our often difficult but always rewarding work on the streets of downtown Portland.

Beyond financial aid, many of the Reed students who spend time with YBR have stated that their service has empowered them to become meaningfully engaged with the local community and become more broadly educated about "real world" issues. They have also stated that their service with YBR has proven to be a strong community-building influence on campus that also allows them the opportunity to get out of the Reed “bubble” to enjoy positive, educational, and healthy recreation. YBR wishes to thank all of the Reed students who have joined the fold since 2007 and we look forward to a lasting relationship with Reed College in the future. For more information about Reed College’s S.E.E.D.S program visit them online here!

Dennis Lundberg
Associate Director/Willamette Bridge Programs

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