The 2019 selection class.
Every spring, we select a new group of kindergarten youth for enrollment into our program and, this year, we are ecstatic to have selected 42 kindergartners!
The selection process begins with six-weeks of intensive observations at local elementary schools in the Portland and SW Washington region in addition to partnering with the Department of Human Services. Our Friends are fully involved and extensively review each youth's risk factors, conduct teacher interviews and perform classroom observations in high-need neighborhoods. A smaller cohort of youth was also selected directly from the foster care system.
This in-depth process helps us to determine which youth can benefit the most from having a Friend; however, we always identify more youth who qualify for our program than we can serve. Each of these kindergarteners have 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 program youth report having at least three adverse experiences and over 50 percent experience a confluence of six or more.
Given those circumstances, a Friend's primary objective is to guide youth into developing essential social and emotional assets they need to build resilience through difficult life circumstances. Newly enrolled kindergarteners will be matched with their new Friend over the summer to begin establishing a foundation for their long-term relationship. Friends will be meeting weekly with their youth and focus on forming strong bonds with their new mentees and their families, and advocate for each child within the school and social service systems. Once strong relationships are created, Friends then proceed to address the many barriers that block our youth's school success, emotional development and overall well-being.
In our 26 years of service, we are thrilled that our program has grown to provide over 500 children with interventions and empower them with the tools they need to lead healthy lives and reach their full potential.