August 11, 2021
A Message from Traci Rossi, our Executive Director
As I reflect on my first year as Executive Director of Friends of the Children-Portland, I am amazed by the youth, caregivers, and staff, and all that we have learned together this year. FriendsPDX has been providing professional mentorships to youth faced with the greatest challenges for 28 years, each year bringing its own lessons, revelations, and transformation. And yet, this year was different, and those that follow will also be unlike any other. To emerge stronger, we must do more than move the needle forward; collectively we need to rebuild. We cannot aim for returning to normal—we have to return to better.
The pandemic may be nearing its “end” for some, but for others this ebb communicates a different message: the spotlight is moving, emergency relief is subsiding, yet inequities will persist. A New York Times Opinion piece assessed inequality during COVID-19, saying “Across so many issues, the pandemic is not a story of an infection curve rising and falling, but two lines moving in different directions.” Those who had power and protection are rising, but those who have not historically had power nor resources are being left further behind. Local and national school attendance rates tell a similar story, revealing a significant gap in engagement among youth of color and those from low-income homes. The message is clear: we cannot wait for systems to change from the top-down; we must be the change, and we must demand equity through collective action.
By committing to each youth for the long-term, our mentors create healing through authentic relationships that champion each youth’s strengths, culture, and self-identified interests. More than a service or product, these essential relationships—social connections that support our mental health, create belonging, and inspire us to be better—will be critical to returning to a world where our youth are seen and celebrated. The trust we have cultivated presents unique opportunities to partner with youth and families towards their long-term stability and well-being. In addition to tracking program outcomes and benchmarks, we gather information from our youth on their individual goals and interests as well as input from alumni and caregivers to determine where our efforts are most helpful.
Going back to better is not about time, it’s about using the lessons learned to propel you forward. At Friends of the Children-Portland, going back to better is creating a community where:
Youth feel powerful, connected, and celebrated throughout their 12.5 years; graduating with the confidence, purpose, community, resources, and ability necessary to reach their dreams.
Caregivers and families feel supported in advancing their individual and family goals.
Facilities are youth-and community-centered, functional, and safe.
This continuous evaluation, reflection, and adjustment is part of the FriendsPDX DNA. Up close, our journey is a blur of smiles, tears, triumphs, hardship, hope, community, self-determination, perseverance, and purpose; it is the story of self-realization. From afar and in its simplest form, this arc is an amalgamation of people showing up for better, drawing from countless lessons learned with a relentless focus on putting youth first and demanding equity.
Thank you for partnering with us in creating a community that sees our youth and demands better for all. Join us as we move into this next phase of recovery focused not on rebuilding, but on building a stronger foundation that better serves all the youth in our community.