In East Portland, youth who are aging out of the foster care system can be connected to mentorship and hands on training in budgeting, finances, and career prep through the life skills transition program at the nonprofit Project 48.
Project 48 provides support for young adults who are at high risk for human trafficking, houselessness or being incarcerated – helping them successfully transition to independent living. The program can now help even more people through a $25,000 community enhancement grant.
The life skills transition program grant was chosen by a new youth-led grant program supported by the nonprofit Elevate Oregon, which provides classes, mentoring and opportunities for diverse youth within the Parkrose School District.
The grant committee distributed a total of $92,592.50 to six organizations serving East Portland.
KJ Mack, the community engagement specialist at Elevate Oregon said the grant process values the voices and contributions of young people. “I think that's really cool to see that our youth can be brought to the table, that they can rise up to the challenge and the responsibility that being at the table entails,” Mack said.
The grant committee was made up of eight youth deciders from high schools in the grant area and two adult advisors. They worked over the course of the school year to create program guidelines, vet grant proposals and decide what organizations should get funding.
The community enhancement grant is funded from a disposal fee at the City of Roses transfer station facility – $1 for every ton of solid waste disposed goes back into the communities surrounding the facility. The grant benefits communities between 82nd Avenue and 162nd Avenue and Southeast Foster Road to Northeast Marine Drive.
Leo Marshall, 16-year-old member of the grant committee, said the group felt they had a responsibility to make thoughtful choices. “It's something that that we all took very seriously because we know that whatever we choose, like it's going to impact someone like us,” he said.
The committee supported projects that meet Metro’s goals for community enhancement funding such as providing programs, training or services that benefit underserved populations, increasing public access to recreation and improving the environmental quality of the area. They then created criteria to decide which proposals were the best fit.
Brenda Rivas is a mother of two Elevate Oregon graduates and her youngest is currently active in the program. As a parent helping the youth grant committee, Rivas wanted to make sure the adults offered help that empowered youth to make decisions.
“It really was all about their perspective and just helping them guide them and being that support for them,” Rivas said.
Grant committee members said it was hard to choose who to fund – but the challenge was good for the group.
Marci Marshall, Leo’s mother, said the youth learned to navigate disagreements, advocating for preferred grant proposals, and listening to understand different perspectives and values. “Those are all tools, conflict resolution tools that they get to take forward with them into their lives,” she said.
This year was the first grant cycle where youth decided who would get funding. Mack looks forward to future grant cycles and more opportunities to empower youth.
“We're really … glad that we have the opportunity to partner with Metro to do something like this and to do it in a new way that's really fresh and exciting and so we're excited to see where it goes from here,” he said.