September 28, 2020

Oregon Community Foundation Announces Grants and Initiatives with Black-Led Organizations

Grant funding will support Elevate Oregon, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC + RAHS) and REAP in efforts to advance racial equity, focusing on children and youth.

Black Student Success at core of community-planned educational initiative

Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) today announced investments to support Black-led organizations working to achieve racial and economic equity in the Portland region. Recognizing that longstanding, systemic, and institutionalized racism widen gaps in opportunity for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), OCF is awarding grants to nonprofit organizations working with communities to build a more equitable future:  

Supporting the success of children and youth is a shared priority at all three organizations. For example, at POIC + RAHS, the focus is on supporting Black and Latinx youth and adults through education, mentoring, family outreach and work training. Established in 1968 in North Portland, POIC + RAHS serves over 3,000 students, work trainees, and their families every year. As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact those served by POIC + RAHS, funding from OCF will help them make the necessary changes to continue to effectively serve their students, trainees, and families. Specifically, this includes increased basic needs support, distance learning tools and resources, and IT and other training for staff members.

Joe McFerrin II, President and CEO of POIC + RAHS, recently shared, “A recent audit of Portland schools revealed only 21% of Black students met or exceeded grade-level standards in English compared to 74% of white students. Also, while Black community members represent 6% of the population overall, they make up 12% of those living below the federal poverty line. These are just a few examples of the egregious disparities in education, health, income, and more experienced by Black community members.

Although the impacts of systemic racism faced by people of color in Oregon are shameful, sad, and frustrating, there is also an opportunity right now while the world is listening and watching: real change feels attainable. Especially if we continue to draw on the expertise and experiences of the Black community, and the work of those who have built deep trust within.

We are excited to partner with the Oregon Community Foundation through their Black Student Success Community Network and other initiatives, and we look forward to making real community change together, led by, and for, Black and African American community members.”

Investing in culturally specific programs support efforts that improve outcomes for Oregon kids and address gaps in opportunity like stable housing, quality education, family support systems and social capital that are exacerbated by longstanding racial and socioeconomic discrimination. 

“The challenges that marginalize Black children in Oregon’s education system are far too great for individual organizations to address alone. This network will utilize strategic collaboration, create meaningful partnerships and spearhead coalitions designed to attack root causes of educational inequity for Black students in Oregon.”

Marcy Bradley
OCF Program Officer for Black Student Success

“For generations, opportunity has been limited for low-income children and more specifically for Black, Indigenous and Children of color because of longstanding racial and socioeconomic discrimination,” said Sonia Worcel, OCF Chief Community Impact Officer. “To effectively dismantle systems of oppression and create equitable opportunities and advancement, we must invest in local organizations leading the work in our communities.”

These investments reflect one part of the foundation’s work to strengthen efforts that advance racial equity and bridge opportunity gaps among BIPOC Oregonians. 

“Over the past six months, we have been grappling deeply with issues of equity and justice across all areas of our organization.  We recognize how much work is ahead for us, including assessing our own shortcomings while continuing to respond to the magnitude of need in Oregon,” Worcel noted. 

OCF believes that listening and proactively learning alongside community partners will help address the root causes of inequities.  This approach has been the underpinning of a community-led initiative for Oregon's Black students, two-years in the making.

Conceived by community members, in partnership with and funding support from partners Collins Foundation, Gray Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Miller Foundation and PGE Foundation – the Oregon Black Student Success Community Network (OBSSCN) launched last month with twenty culturally focused organizations working together to raise hope and possibilities for Oregon's Black students.   

“The challenges that marginalize Black children in Oregon’s education system are far too great for individual organizations to address alone," noted Marcy Bradley, OCF Program Officer. “This network will utilize strategic collaboration, create meaningful partnerships and spearhead coalitions designed to attack root causes of educational inequity for Black students in Oregon.”

Black students in Oregon continue to experience gaps in educational access and opportunities that appear in early childhood, youth development, K-12 and higher education settings. They experience more poverty, higher rates of exclusionary discipline and lower graduation rates than White students. By serving as policy advisers, educational advocates and knowledge generators, leaders engaged in OBSSCN will help guide philanthropic dollars toward more effectively improving the social-emotional, academic, and career opportunities for Black students throughout the state.  

About Oregon Community Foundation

Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) puts donated money to work in Oregon – more than $100 million in grants and scholarships annually. For nearly 50 years, OCF grantmaking, research, advocacy and community-advised solutions have helped individuals, families, businesses and organizations create charitable funds to improve lives for all Oregonians. Impactful giving–time, talent and resources from many generous Oregonians–creates measurable change.

For more information about OCF, please visit:

About Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC+RAHS)

POIC + RAHS has been a beacon for communities of color, particularly the Black and African American community, for more than 50 years. 

POIC + RAHS was originally founded to provide culturally specific workforce training and career placement services to counter discriminatory practices keeping people of color unemployed, underemployed, and unable to access wealth building opportunities. Then, viewing education as a critical component of a community's success, POIC + RAHS expanded by founding Rosemary Anderson High School (RAHS), an accredited alternative high school, in 1983 and later an accredited middle school in 2018. Overall, with five school campuses now and more than 100 staff, students are supported with caring educators, culturally specific curricula, and safe spaces.

Today, POIC + RAHS provides a continuum of education, career, and family services. From reintroducing houseless teens to the classroom, to pairing gang-affected students with meaningful career opportunities, to helping youth experiencing domestic violence find stability and hope through mentorship - POIC + RAHS helps youth and adults reimagine and rewrite their life stories.

In addition to these direct services, POIC + RAHS also works towards systems change - partnering across all sectors towards policies and practices that address root causes of generations-long economic, judicial, academic, and social inequities.