Open School & the Technology Gap (by Peter, Kaitlin, Sully, Jhovany, and Aaron)

The Open School East serves over 130 students currently and is projected to serve a population of 270 students in the upcoming years. This population is made up of bright, promising, engaged students who need something more than they would get from a regular school environment. Many of the Open School students are at risk of not graduating by the time they turn 18, but Open School’s philosophy of providing rigorous academics, supportive teachers, and connection with the local community means that over 90% of Open School attendees turn this around and are on track for graduation. The Open School believes that every student can grow and learn, and they prioritize making sure students have the skills and tools that they need to be successful long after graduation. As a part of that mission, The Open School wants to ensure that their graduates have advanced technological literacy and can apply those skills to building satisfying careers and succeeding in college.

With the rapidly expanding field of app design and maintenance, along with apps for tablets being integrated into a number of other fields, the students at The Open School East need iPads to explore, learn, and create in that software environment. Students who can learn to work with this technology proficiently and confidently have a massive leg-up as they enter college and the workforce. Additionally, the ability for students to create apps and code independently provides them with unique opportunities to take ownership of their own creative efforts. The Open School has an instructor already lined up to teach classes on app development and coding, along with students eager to start learning. However, they need funding to supply the iPads they need.

In total, they need $11,000 to purchase these iPads, and our job this term was to facilitate this process. Building upon the work from the previous term’s team, we divided our efforts into two fronts: The first task group handled finding corporate partners to help bring down costs, either through providing discounts or through direct contributions. The second task group was assigned to general fundraising. At first this second group pursued both crowdfunding options and the creation of a “grant application packet” to provide to The Open School but, as the term went on, efforts were focused down to just that packet. While the first task group was dogged in their pursuit of corporate partners, they ultimately ran into many dead-ends with Apple and others. Their efforts demonstrated the difficulty of getting the attention of organizations with resources to help out. The fundraising group was able to successfully complete their packet (link) and, hopefully, this will make the process of applying for grants and awards easier and more frequent going forward.

Looking ahead, we are excited to see what the next group can accomplish alongside the people at The Open School. The packet lays a solid groundwork for applying for grants and awards in the future, and can be expanded upon with more work. While corporate partners were difficult to connect with for us, perhaps a new team with new contacts and resources might have better luck. Similarly, while a crowdfunding campaign never got off the ground for our team, if the next team starts planning early enough, I imagine they can make great strides in helping The Open School reach their goals. Lastly, I think one thing that would be an improvement over our efforts this term would be to involve the community more actively. The parents of Open School students are most familiar with their needs and likely have a wealth of resources to contribute, be it time, contacts, ideas, or experience. Reaching out to members of the community and engaging with them would likely have been very beneficial to us this term. Hopefully, this is something the next term’s team can try out. With luck and persistence (a whole lot of it), we can help make sure the students of the Open School get the technology they need.

Food Insecurity in Portland: Open School & Working with Food Organizations (by Dina, Sarah, Marius, Liz, and Jimmy)

Food insecurity can be defined in many different ways, the USDA defines it as, “whether households run out of food, or whether people went without eating for more than twenty-four hours.” In Oregon, 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger. In the 2000’s Oregon had the highest rate of hunger in the nation, and Governor Ted Kulongoski created a plan to address this issue. He stated, “When 50,000 children everyday go to bed not having eaten a meal in the last 24 hours, that is not the Oregon I know.” Today, hunger is still an issue a lot of kids face. Although the eligibility for food stamps has gotten easier, so more people have more access to food, this still hasn’t eradicated the issue of hunger.

Food insecurity can affect kids in a wide variety of ways. In relation to health, food insecurity can be linked to a higher risk for chronic health conditions, frequent oral health problems, and poorer physical quality of life. In relation to behavior, food insecurity can relate to greater risk of truancy, school tardiness, fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, mood swings, and anxiety. For kids who are growing and need energy to focus in school, having access to nutritious meals is very important.

Portland has a wide variety of organizations that contribute to helping people have access to food. The Portland Food Pantry website lists a number of local organizations: Oregon Food Bank, North East Emergency Food, Grace & Hope for Children, Sharon Community Services, etc. All these organizations supply continuous amounts of food to the local public, but people still suffer from food insecurity. One local organization that uses these resources is Open School. Continue reading