A group of 11 Whitman students and 1 Staff Adviser participated in the Portland, OR Spring Break Service Trip the first week of Spring Break (March 14-21). Their trip theme was urban education. Read on to learn about each day’s activities as well as hear about students’ reflections!
Sunday, March 15:
Today, the Urban Education spring break service trip in Portland, Oregon, worked at a Major League Soccer game between the Portland Timbers and the Los Angeles Galaxy! We sold raffle tickets benefitting an organization called Active Children Portland, which is a non-profit that offers after school athletic programs, such as soccer and basketball, to underserved Portland students. Ninety-seven percent of ACP’s students are on reduced or free school lunches, and they also receive lessons from other non-athletic disciplines such as nutrition and slam poetry. Ultimately, the experience taught us valuable lessons about successful salesmanship and how to support a valuable organization in a new, exciting setting! -Devin Reese ’18 and Max Hanson ’18
Monday, March 16:
Today is our first day of service in a school. We went to Lincoln Park Elementary School. We were paired up with one teacher from kindergarten to fifth grade. I started to work with Ms. Woodly in her kindergarten class. Her class has 28 students, which is 10 more students comparing to our class size in Whitman. Working with kindergarten students is such a challenging job. Ms. Woodly not only taught different subjects to the students non-stop from 8am to 3pm besides a 15 minute break but also corrected students’ misbehaviors constantly. Besides me, she has an assistant teacher to help out during class. What struck me was that the school was amazingly diverse. Over 45 percent of students speak a different language other than English at home. I saw tons of interracial interactions in class. When Ms. Woodly asked students to color a comic book, students drew all kind of skin tones for the characters. ~Vicky Su ’16
Tuesday, March 17:
Today, we woke up early to go to Arthur Academy in David Douglas District. Arthur Academy is a charter school, which allows it to adhere to a unique curriculum. We observed multiple reading, math, and physical education classes and went to recess with students. Compared to our time yesterday at Lincoln Park, Arthur Academy has a far more structured class time and uniform techniques used throughout the school. Many of us were impressed with the behavior and focused learning of these students we observed. Afterward, we went to a nonprofit called Neighborhood House and cleaned up the playground the students in their Headstart program use. We then moved to a food bank and sorted food while we learned about the people who benefit from the pantry and what kind of philosophies the coordinator uses to run it. After a long day, we went to Powell’s bookstore to browse and relax. We finished the day with a delicious fried rice dinner cooked by members of our group and an engaging reflection session on our day. ~Serena Runyan ’15
Wednesday, March 18:
Today was a very eventful day for our group as we had four very distinct destinations. Our first location was West Powellhurst, a public elementary school, where we helped build a compost box and realign the grass in order to make a concrete pathway for individuals. Later we went to a lunch meeting with Professor Morgan, who is a professor in Portland State University, and enlightened us on the experience of being a member of the Board of Education. Next we went to Alliance High School , which is an alternative high school, where we learned about the different options for students interested in trades such as automotive services, welding, or a career in natural resources. Lastly we attended New Urban High School, where we helped put together a Family Night in hopes of raising money for the students’ first dance and to have the community learn more about the school’s presence. All in all today was a very fast paced day in which we were exposed to various types of education that benefited our own educational growth. -Jocelyn Ramirez ’18
Thursday, March 19:
Our first stop on Thursday morning was at the headquarters an organization called All Hands Raised: a partnership which seeks to align the goals of different organizations and efforts within the Multnomah County to support youth “from cradle to grave.” We participated in a discussion where we were asked to come up with a list of goals that the Portland community could work toward to create what the partnership refers to as a “collective impact,” the idea that community members must unite and take responsibility for the well-being of youth. The discussion, we were told, mirrored a several month long process that the board had undergone to establish priorities for the organization, giving us the opportunity to learn about the way that nonprofits operate at the executive level and an appreciation for the challenges that All Hands Raised seeks to address. The second half of our day was comprised of direct hands-on service. Our first stop after lunch was at the Children’s Book Bank where we cleaned and repaired books that would be donated to children in underserved communities. We reminisced about our favorite books as kids while cleaning covers and taping torn pages. Next, we arrived at Schoolhouse Supplies a nonprofit providing free school supplies to students and teachers. We had a lot of fun sorting supplies for a few hours before heading back to the church for dinner and reflection. ~ Christy Carley ’18
Friday, March 20:
On the final day of our trip we started our day at a meeting for Communities Supporting Youth where we saw a few representatives of the places we had visited earlier in the week. This was one of my highlights of the trip because it really brought together the different aspects of education that we saw in the Portland community throughout the week and reflect upon them. My favorite part of this meeting was listening to an educator speak about refugee and immigrant integration into the public school system. After the meeting, we did some hands-on service at a local organization called The Shadow Project that provides teachers with supplies and incentives for their classrooms. Some of the members of our trip helped open mystery incentive bags and sort them. I was on the book labeling team and we marked three cases of books with their levels in the short time that we were there! Coincidentally, one of the organizers of this program is a a Whitman graduate and she really emphasized how we can all get involved with education right now and how important it is to get out into the Walla Walla community with service. Then, we visited Alliance High School at Benson. We received a tour from the vice principal and learned all about the structure of this alternative high school program which is set in a small classrooms and focuses on individualized learning. I loved learning about how involved the teachers are with supporting their students. They even text their students to check-in when the students miss class. We ended our day at Shaver Elementary School where we helped out at a dance put on by students through the “Schools Uniting Neighborhoods” after-school program. Additionally, we heard an Americorps presentation that showed us how we can get involved with education right out of Whitman. It was really great to end our week by doing service that involved interacting with kids and learning more about similar opportunities after graduation! ~ Uma Trivede ’17
Final Reflections: Learning about Learning
Going to the different kinds of schools, whether it was at a elementary, middle, or high school level, I realized that there are different ways of learning and teaching, and as a result, there is no model or ideal school. In order to make sure that all students can learn and succeed, there must be resources, opportunities, and the right mentality, and that comes from the entire community.
I also learned that there are multiple types of service. There is direct service, which is when you can look at the finished project and tangibly see the work you have accomplished. Other times, service can be done by learning, even if it means just to watch and observe. It is bringing back what you have learned to the rest of your community and what you are able to do with this new knowledge and perspective that is service.
Overall, there was all types of learning. And lots of it. I also found another great community within Whitman that shares a passion for service. It’s all for the kids. ~ Kaitie Dong ’18