Watching people you love leave for bigger and better things is never easy, but seeing 12 ½ years of relationships culminate into excellence is why we do this work and we couldn’t be prouder of the 17 youth graduating from our program this year. Friends of the Children-Portland hosted a drive-thru ceremony to celebrate the exemplary graduates and their achievements over the years. Our Rockwood offices were decked out and decorated to aptly appreciate the hard work and many successes of the program’s graduates. FriendsPDX commits to youth at a young age, offering 12 ½ years of personalized support and guidance from a salaried, professional mentor. The youth that showed up got to spend some time with their Friend and other FriendsPDX staff, grab some snacks, share stories, and enjoy the weather outside.
It had been a long time since the hallways and breakout rooms of our Rockwood location had been filled with laughter, but the many smiling eyes shining behind masks were evidence of the joy we all felt gathering again and seeing off this class of graduates. Youth, along with their families, were able to drive through the parking lot and receive their gift baskets, see their Friend and be cheered on by the entire team. If they felt comfortable, they were welcome to come inside the building masked and spend some time out of the heat. This being one of the last official events these youth attend with FriendsPDX, it was important they had some time to process their time in our program and enjoy the company of the people they’ve met along the way. Each youth was greeted by their Friend (many times, multiple Friends they’ve had over the years) and received a personalized graduation gift. At Friends, we don’t say goodbye, it’s always “see you later” - we hope these graduates will visit and come back to join our alumni programming.
Throughout the day FriendsPDX staff cheered on and recognized the youths’ achievements with a poster and card making station, a photo booth and a whole lot of balloons! Many of the FriendsPDX staff spent time listing different attributes of the youth graduating, resulting in a word cloud for each youth to take as a reminder of the greatness they have and the impact they’ve left on our program. There was plenty of joy, a couple of tears, and a lot of hope as staff wished each youth the best of luck on the next step of their journey. If you’d like to learn more about our graduating youth, check out our blog post from June discussing how special each of them are.