GtCNN’s inaugural fundraiser brought together community leaders, Gateway ambassadors, and alumni to support the important work we do in Oregon, raising nearly $40,000 toward our mission.
In Oregon, GtCNN’s home state, the graduation rate is one of the lowest in the nation. This sobering statistic leaves many Oregonians wondering what works to reengage students and how we can ensure all students are graduating prepared for college and career. Re:Connect Oregon, GtCNN’s inaugural fundraiser, served as an introduction to one existing strategy for reengaging students left behind in our education system. Our core program, Gateway to College, has reengaged thousands of students in Oregon through a partnership between Portland Community College and surrounding school districts, and has been replicated in communities across the country.
“For every $100 raised, Gateway to College can raise an additional $1100 in public support,” GtCNN President Emily Froimson said.
President Froimson addressed the education challenges Oregon faces, sharing that students from low-income families graduate at a much lower rate than their peers. Gateway to College and the PCC-based PDX Bridge program aim to serve Oregon’s most vulnerable youth.
Throughout our brief history, Gateway to College has been able to expand and grow because of the dedicated work and service of so many individuals. The board chose to establish the GtCNN Distinguished Leader Award as a way to recognize one of those leaders each year. Nan Poppe, GtCNN board member, recognized Laurel Dukehart, GtCNN’s former president and founder, as the inaugural recipient of the award. Glenn Fee announced the Ambassador Award winner, Jay Schmidt of Silicon Forest Electronics, for his continued support and commitment to GtCNN.
Three alumni shared their stories during the event, reminding the audience of the direct impact of Gateway’s work. Alexander, a Gateway graduate of 2015 and Ambassador Council member, was encouraged to apply to the program by a neighbor who happened to work for Gateway. It was through the encouragement and support he received from this mentor that compelled him to mentor other young people.
Erikka Potts, Gateway graduate of 2014, currently serves on the steering committee for GtCNN’s collaborative initiative PDX Bridge, a program serving youth who have experienced homelessness, the justice system, or foster care. As a foster youth herself, Erikka is passionate about giving back to her “foster care brothers and sisters” to help them pursue education. Her own education was derailed due to substance abuse in her family; through Gateway to College, she found the supports needed to finish her high school diploma and get into college.
Keynote speaker Kendra Johnson graduated Gateway to College at PCC in 2003 and has been pursuing education regardless of personal and academic obstacles ever since. Upon graduation from Gateway, Kendra enrolled in the University of Oregon, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Services. She continued her education at the University of Portland, receiving a Master of Social Work degree. Kendra is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, a community service organization led by African American college-educated women that is continually leading effective advocacy and social change for equality and equity for all. She currently serves the Portland area as Director of Youth and Family Services at Impact Northwest. It was her experience in Gateway where she found a community of support to overcome challenges, and she called for more support for the program so other young people can find their path.
“As you heard from those three incredible Gateway Graduates, there is no single type of student who becomes disconnected to their education,” said Richard Greensted, Gateway Ambassador. “For some, their school environment is not safe. For others, family obligations make it difficult to attend school. Sometimes, a school just isn’t a good fit, and there are few alternatives.”
Richard made a personal financial commitment to the organization, before encouraging fellow event attendees to raise their paddles in support of our work. We are so thankful for the support of our sponsors and donors in making this first fundraiser a success.
Sponsors: Alaska Airlines, Huron Consulting, Kaiser Permanente, Northwest Bank, Silicon Forest Electronics, Umpqua Bank