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<p><em>A Friend and youth learn gardening skills during one of the many engaging programs FriendsPDX stayed busy with this summer.</em></p>

September 14, 2021

A Glimpse at FriendsPDX’s 2021 Summer!

Our youth have had a busy summer exploring their Spark this past summer! At Friends of the Children-Portland (FriendsPDX), many summer activities and events required creativity as our Friends and community continued to navigate safety parameters and procedures. Organizing and nurturing partnerships with local organizations to engage youth was the foundation for a summer filled with outdoor adventures, musical creativity, digital learning, relationship building, and leadership growth.

LEAP: This summer marked the ninth year of partnership with LEAP, a local organization who creates empowering experiences for communities facing adversity. Nine youth and four Friends engaged in this 5-day immersive wilderness program, which included kayaking for three and a half days down the Lower Salmon River. They learned from river guides, acquired skills to face new challenges, nurtured relationships, and experienced the power of connection through shared community. These youth enjoyed all that nature offered, from white-water rapids to sleeping outside under the starry sky.

FriendsPDX Youth Council: Youth Council is formed by a group of youth, 7th grade and up, who invest in building a community and culture that welcomes, supports, and values the voices of all regardless of age. With guidance from two Program leadership staff, this council is solely led by FriendsPDX youth. This summer, a youth shared their idea and vision for hosting movie screenings with post-viewing discussion allowing youth and FriendsPDX to have intentional conversations about race and the realities of having different lived experiences. With support to make this vision a reality, this youth hosted the first screening of the Youth Council Real Talk series, selecting “I Am Not Your Negro” based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript. Real Talk offers the opportunity for participants to change or create a new perspective on equity issues, grow in personal understanding to create change, learn from each other through personal experiences, and dive deep into issues that still exists today. The next Real Talk series will focus on disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline and another youth has been inspired to facilitate this time of learning, growth and connection.

Juice and Paint

Juice & Paint: Youth were invited to participate, virtually or socially distanced, in enjoying snacks and juice while painting together! Supplies were provided for youth to choose a canvas and paint a Super Mario or a Baby Yoda. This activity was organized and led by two Friends and the FriendsPDX Youth Engagement & Empowerment team. Together in community, youth grew their sense of belonging and their spark for artistic creativity then took their art with them to share with their families.

Gardening Group: Youth who have a Spark for gardening were invited to an outing at a local nursery in Scappoose, OR. They received a kit which contained a pot, potting soil, assortment of paints and brushes, a cup, and some plant care tips. This event was such a hit that two different outings were held while youth could also choose to participate separate with their Friend.

Wacky World Coding: Nine youth were able to attend a 5-week camp with the founder of Wacky World Coding, Anthony Sweeting. Youth learned how to design and code Roblox Obbys, create spawn locations, code items to move around, how to make a finish line and even had the possibility to earn Robux off their creations! This community partnership has already scheduled another workshop to be held in October and are coordinating the Fall coding camp!

Pen-pal with Marquis: Our pen-pal program is just starting up with our friends at Marquis Companies! Together, residents will be partnered with youth and Friends to create inter-generational relationships and provide meaningful connections. Youth are looking forward to sending Marquis guests some notes and letters!

My Voice Music: As we begin transitioning into September, My Voice Music is offering youth two music workshops, for 2nd – 5th grade and 6th – 12th grade. Youth will learn the process of song composition, how to record the song with a band, and then how to release or perform the song. The youth who are participating were able to select Hip-Hop as their focused genre. Through this method, youth from all backgrounds can grow as artists and amplify their voice and self-discovery.

FriendsPDX is so thankful for the many ways this community and our partners show support, day in and day out. This summer was filled with unique experiences to create memories and build relationships. As the upcoming school year begins, we are excited to walk alongside our youth into a better future.