While many of us are familiar with social and educational inequities that affect the youth in the Portland Metropolitan Area like low-income housing, poverty, hunger, and immigration issues, there are many more overlooked inequities that affect a wide range of youths. These issues are being addressed by some fantastic activist groups across Portland and neighboring cities. One of these activist groups, and the one that we have partnered with for our Partners in Community (PIC) team project, is the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, or YEJA. The issue that they have chosen to address and combat is transit injustice in East Portland. Their #YouthPass4All campaign is aimed at funding Trimet youth passes for students in the Parkrose and David-Douglas school districts. The school-run bus system does not adequately serve the students in neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color and lower-income homes.
Most people do not realize that transit justice is something that requires the efforts of people like those leading YEJA. The main issue surrounds students’ inabilities to attend class because of the often prohibitive cost of a Trimet youth pass combined with the lack of a comprehensive school bus program that covers all the students within a district. Schools may have programs that aid in the elimination of inequities, like the Roosevelt Writing Center, but if students do not have the means to get to school, those programs are all for not. Having access to public transportation often times means having access to education, employment, and public services. YEJA’s aim is to ensure as many students in need of public transportation have full access to the entirety of Trimet and its buses, trains, and streetcars.
While YEJA has been incredibly successful in their efforts to make #YouthPass4All a policy of Trimet, Portland Public Schools, as well as the Metro Regional Government, we felt that our time and effort would be best applied to continuing and sustaining the program into the future when the youth leaders in YEJA have cycled out of the organization. Seeing that the three of us all volunteered at the Roosevelt High School Writing Center, we felt that it was the perfect opportunity to connect these two organizations that have done such great work in their communities. The importance of a youth voice through many mediums is critical for community development and expression. Just as important is finding a way to be heard, since many of the social inequities that we have observed revolved around people being ignored. The Writing Center is a prime example of a space that facilitates these abilities in students. We felt that combining the efforts of both YEJA and the Writing Center could be a powerful tool in the fight against transit injustice across Portland.
Our efforts culminated in a brief but informative PowerPoint presentation detailing the most important aspects of a successful social media campaign. The motivation behind this presentation was to develop a tool for YEJA to use in the future, whether it is to fight for the continuation of the #YouthPass4All campaign or an altogether new campaign to combat other social and educational inequities in their communities. The presentation focuses on the community surrounding Roosevelt High School, using images and information pertaining to their community. Giving the campaign a sense of place and allowing the community to embrace the issue before presenting them with a solution is just as important as the generation and implementation of the solution itself.
After attending some of YEJA’s rallies, we realized that the students of Portland care just as much about social justice issues, as the many adults and victims that are fighting for these issues. What these students have in common with the students at Roosevelt High School is their awareness and motivation to create change. Our group found the importance between these two youth groups was their ability to demonstrate not only dedication in defeating injustices relating to education, but also issues affecting their daily lives outside of school. The students participating in YEJA demonstrated an interest in wanting to be taken seriously and as active members of the community. They shared this quality with the students at Roosevelt’s Writing Center, who spent countless hours journaling, documenting and advocating their experiences as minorities and as underserved youths. It is our hope that our combined community engagement efforts have helped to make a difference for the future.
- “Let Knowledge Serve the City” by rachaelvorhees, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- “Trimet Portland” by Mobilus In Mobili, licensed under CC BY 2.0
- “ John’s Bridge” by Wendy, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
- “IMG_8016” by Jeff Muceus, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- “TriMet: Portland Streetcar waits at Portland State University” by Trimet, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0