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April 26, 2018

We Hit a Growth Spurt

2018 marks the largest selection class ever.

This spring, we selected 75 new kindergarten youth for enrollment into our program, our largest selection group for the third year in a row!

We partner with local elementary schools and the Department of Human Services to select youth who can most benefit from the added presence of a Friend in their life.

The majority of our new youth were identified through our annual six-week Selection Class process, which includes an extensive review of individual risk factors, teacher interviews and classroom observations for kindergartners in high-need neighborhoods. Our six partner elementary schools were located in Portland, Reynolds, David Douglas and Vancouver Public School Districts. A smaller cohort of youth was selected directly from the foster care system.

While reflecting on the selection process, one Friend remarked, "I made it my job not just to observe and take notes but to really build relationships with the youth as well as the teachers, helping and supporting them as much as I can. It's almost as if I was already each and every child's mentor."

Each year through this process, we identify more youth who qualify for our program than we are able to serve. These are youth who are entering kindergarten, having already experienced significant early trauma and systemic barriers. In the United States, 45 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic event, compared to 100 percent in the Friends program. In fact, 86 percent of our youth report having at least three adverse experiences and over 50 percent experience a confluence of six or more.

A Friend’s primary objective is to coach youth to develop the social and emotional assets they need to build resilience even through devastating life circumstances. Newly enrolled kindergarteners will be matched with their new Friend over the summer, and spend the first few months in our program, establishing a foundation for their long-term relationship. Friends will meet weekly with youth, focus on forming strong bonds with their new mentees and their families, and advocate for each child within school and social service systems. With strong relationships in place, Friends then begin to address the many barriers that block our youth’s school success, emotional development and overall well-being.

We are celebrating 25 years of service this year and are thrilled that this is the year we have grown to now provide over 500 children with interventions guaranteed to support them in leading healthy, successful, community-engaged lives.