With Cindy Carlson, Dean of Students, and Birgitte Ryslinge, President
Each year, Campus Compact of Oregon member institutions get 4 hours of free training and consultation on equity in education. Oregon Coast Community College in Newport, Oregon, has made the most of this resource. A small college with just 13 full time faculty and 40 part time faculty positions, OCCC brings together its entire staff, faculty, and administration twice a year for in-service trainings. For three years in a row, Campus Compact staff facilitated workshops at these trainings, on topics like the history of race in Oregon, or the ways white supremacy culture perpetuates organizational dysfunction.
“The first time that Josh came four years ago we were really young – immature I would say – in our equity and inclusion work,” says Dean of Students Cindy Carlson. “He was really instrumental in opening those doors for us and facilitating conversations that could have been challenging, in such a way that people didn’t get defensive, which is a pretty big deal.”
President Birgitte Ryslinge feels that the Campus Compact all-staff trainings “helped to create an environment where we have more people understanding the barriers facing some students. It was awareness raising for our employees as a whole.”
OCCC has since started its first Equity and Inclusion Committee, and uses some of the equity tools provided by Campus Compact to evaluate the institutional systems they are building as part of the process of becoming an independently accredited college. The long-term impact of this preliminary work is beginning to bear fruit.
“We have made two full time faculty hires of people of color in the last three years,” shares President Ryslinge. “This is impactful with a full-time faculty of just 13. Were it not for all of the foundational work we were doing through Campus Compact, the outcomes of the screening process might have been different. Faculty and staff who were present for the equity trainings were on our screening committees for hiring. Part of the screening committee orientation was, "don’t look for people who are like us, or focus only on the traditional applicant. Look for— who is this person? How do they bring differences to our faculty? How will students relate and be inspired?”
One of those hires is Oscar Juárez, who is heading up OCCC’s new Early Childhood Education program, which will prepare students to work at places like Head Start, become child care teachers, or get them on their way toward a teaching degree. Through this program OCCC hopes to grow more teachers who will stay in the community in Lincoln County. Juárez’s educational background, work experience at Head Start, and his cultural background were large factors contributing to his appointment. Quoted in a press release for the college, Juárez said, “I felt this was a community that needed me…I have a lot of experience working with low-income families, and as a Hispanic person, I’ve heard from people that said they were excited to see someone with their skin color that can speak their language, and others saying that seeing me in this job gives them hope.”
“We have a long way to go, and we are making good progress,” President Ryslinge reflects on OCCC’s equity journey. “We are small and rural – we don’t have dedicated diversity staff or internal experts – so growing through the assistance of a resource like Campus Compact has been so important.”
with Paulina Jaeger-Rosete,
C2C Member 2017-18
Paulina Jaeger-Rosete served as a Student Engagement Specialist through the C2C program at Buckman Elementary in 2017-18. She ran several attendance initiatives, including the colorful Unicorn Attendance Academy, which she shaped alongside the school counselor, a fun reason for students with attendance below 90% to come in and say hi each morning, earn points, and be recognized at assemblies for their improvements. Paulina partnered with teachers to identify students to work with on reading and writing during the school day; and during after-school hours she helped run a homework club and prepare for STEAM education night. Paulina also attended Buckman’s monthly Family Equity Team meetings and served as a Spanish-English translator and liaison between SUN, Buckman, and the families. As a community service event, she organized a day camp called, “We are Neighbors, Outside and In,” which brought students, families, and community partners together for activities and service projects around homelessness and the housing crisis in Portland.
At Campus Compact we have invested deeply in our AmeriCorps recruitment process to place candidates at our sites that reflect the students they serve. Representation—racially, culturally, and linguistically—matters. Paulina experienced this first hand. “I see how I am valuable to the Spanish-speaking community at Buckman,” she reflects. “There are four mothers I speak with in Spanish when they come in. One in particular has told me that she appreciates me a lot because otherwise she's kept mostly to herself. When we see each other, we catch up and talk about her daughter. One student, from Cuba, has a lot of break-downs during SUN after school sessions. He speaks English really well, but when he's upset I tend to talk with him mostly in Spanish. I've seen it get through to him differently than English... like an immediate ally. The other day he was able to just talk really rapidly about his feelings in Spanish, and I felt good that he could do that with me and be understood.”
Connect2Complete members fill in the gaps at K12 schools and seek to provide the consistency, one-on-one attention, and restorative practices often missing for students of color or low-income students who are struggling with attendance and engagement in school. “I try to be really fair and gentle and consistent,” Paulina says of her approach with her students. “If I have to miss an appointment with a kid, I let them know and make sure they understand the situation. I do my best to make sure kids do not feel shuffled around or helpless around me. I think an important key to this is showing a lot of respect for the kids and their talents and ideas. And it's really honoring what IS good in them and connecting with them over their interests and skills.”
Paulina says that Campus Compact’s supportive program, cohort structure, and trainings were key to her success. “I had never worked full-time in the school system before, although I had part-time and tutoring experience in middle and high schools. Campus Compact, from day one, let me know that they are here to listen should I need it, here to help answer any questions I might have, here to brainstorm with me, here to provide mediation for any difficult conversations, and here to connect me with resources and training opportunities around working with children, restorative justice, and racial equity.”
Impact Story: The Teach, Learn Grow Program Invests Long-Term in Students with Support from College Access Corps Members
With Elias Villegas, Dean and supervisor, Cassandra Martinez, '18-19 CAC member and TLG Coordinator, and Alvaro Mendoza, '17-18 CAC alumnus
The Teach, Learn, Grow program at Chemeketa Woodburn was founded six years ago with the support of Campus Compact of Oregon VISTAs, and College Access Corps members have coordinated the program ever since. At TLG, CAC members recruit, train, and coach Chemeketa students to become community volunteers. The students act as mentors and provide academic support for middle and high school students in Woodburn.
TLG’s recipe for college-K12 mentorship is about long-term investment in students and the Woodburn community. The program encourages community engagement and volunteering, builds a college-going culture in local schools, and encourages students who may not have considered it before to pursue teaching in the community as a long-term career. And it’s working. Says Elias: “Some of the students who went through the program as youth are now Chemeketa students. We have had a few of them become mentors. And some of the students who were mentors 5 years ago are now teachers – they went to Chemeketa, transferred to Pacific University across the street, and are now teaching here in our community.”
How do they do it? “We would not be able to do this great work without this support from the AmeriCorps program,” says Elias. College Access Corps members recruit mentors at Chemeketa by visiting classrooms at the start of term, set up a booth at schools during lunchtimes to recruit youth, match mentors with youth they connect with, create curriculum and fun activities for weekly sessions, plan university visit field trips, and organize service days and community events such as Woodburn Proud City Clean Up Day and Cinco de Mayo. Chemeketa also makes serving with TLG worthwhile for its students. The college students take a free mentoring class for 2 elective credits, and they can take it up to three times, so it can actually save students money on school.
TLG is transformative for both the K12 youth and the Chemeketa students. “When the youth build a relationship with college students they are more engaged in academics. Then once they realize how important education is, it changes their perspective. Then they also give back to their communities," CAC alum Alvaro Mendoza explains.
“There was a mentor who thought she only wanted to do the program for one term,” shares current CAC member Cassandra Martinez. “Then she got really attached to three students at the middle school. She decided to come back for winter term, then spring term. When we have mentors come back, it brings a lot of joy to me because they are enjoying their community and making an impact.”
Alvaro also remembers “a young gentleman who was a mentor, was able to get a Ford Foundation Scholarship for a full ride to PSU because of the community service he did through TLG. He told his story about his mentoring experience in his essay. I was honored to write him a letter of recommendation.”
Elias agrees. “Many students who come to college don’t know what they want to study, and through this program they go on to become teachers. Our students have changed majors, and became teachers in our community.”
Impact Story: The Higher Education Coordinating Commission "Unpacks Structural Racism" Through ELSEE
with Bob Brew, Deputy Executive Director and ELSEE Cohort 1 (2017-18) and Patrick Crane, Director of the Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development and ELSEE Cohort 2 (2018-19)
The Executive Learning Series on Equity and Empowerment (ELSEE), facilitated by Sonali Sangeeta Balajee and Josh Todd, brings together educational administrators, faculty, and students from across Oregon to delve into discussion of systems of power, privilege and oppression, and the application of an equity lens in the work we do across education. Institutions put together a cohort of up to 8 representatives and together participate in a yearlong course that includes a culminating project meant to being to shift outcomes towards equity at their institutions.
Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, the government agency overseeing pubic higher education in our state, has put two cohorts through the ELSEE, one in 2017-18 and a current cohort in 2018-19. HECC entered the ELSEE with a specific goal. HECC is “committed to increasing college completion rates overall and also completion rates for specific racial and ethnic groups,” explains Patrick Crane. “ELSEE was about learning tools to put the equity lens we already had into practice. Yeah we have a policy, but how do we really see it through?”
Patrick says both cohorts agree that ELSEE gave participants “a space that is removed from the structural authority that determines how we interact with each other, and build relationships we wouldn’t have otherwise built. It has given us time and space which doesn’t exist anywhere else in the organization to unpack the structural racism in the world and at work…and think about how we at HECC both interrupt and reinforce structural racism.”
Beyond relationship building, Cohort 1’s ELSEE project is beginning to impact the way things happen at the state agency. Bob Brew shares that the “ongoing project was to examine the hiring, recruiting, and retention practices to look for unconscious bias or things that discourage folks from applying. We put a new tag at top of job notices that says ‘research shows women and people of color are less likely to apply if they don’t meet 100% of qualifications. We encourage you to apply even if you don’t think you meet all the qualifications.’” HECC also disabled a function in their online recruiting tool that removed candidates from the pool if they said they did not meet all the qualifications. Bob remembers, “we were in the midst of a hire… and with these changes two of the top 5 candidates were women and one was a women of color who would have been kicked out because they checked the ‘I don’t meet the qualifications’ box but they were the most qualified. One of them was hired.”
Now, the cohorts are working together to think about how to bring lessons from ELSEE to the whole 124-person agency.
“What I came a way with was, are good intentions aren’t enough,” says Bob. “Because systems are entrenched. If you want to disrupt them, you have to do so intentional and planfully.”
Campus Compact of Oregon has restructured our staffing for the coming 2019-20 school year and we are currently hiring for three staff positions - Equitable Pathways AmeriCorps Program Manager (who will manage the expanded Connect2Complete program), College Access Corps Program Manager, and Communications and Marketing Manager. We are very excited to welcome new team members! This also means that several longtime staff are transitioning this summer. These are their reflections.
What roles have you held at Campus Compact of Oregon?
I first joined Campus Compact in August 2013 as the Leadership and Development Specialist AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the student advisory board, supporting fundraising, and managing the MLK Day of Service. The next year, I served as the AmeriCorps VISTA Leader mentoring, training, and assisting our VISTA team serving across Oregon. Since August 2015, I have served as the AmeriCorps Program Manager for the Connect2Complete educational equity partnerships in our K12 schools and community colleges.
What was the hardest thing about working here?
The hardest thing has been navigating federal funds to do equity work, when at times, they feel in opposition to one another. It has also been a challenge (albeit enlightening) to engage in our own internal equity work as we have started to shift our own policies and practices to better serve each other and our partners.
What was the best thing about working here?
The best thing about serving with Campus Compact is being able to witness positive impacts on student lives, and to be a part of the professional development of Oregon's upcoming leaders in educational equity and racial justice. Our AmeriCorps members are catalysts for change and have gone on to influence classrooms, policy decisions, higher education institutions, shake up graduate schools, and create safer spaces for Oregon's most vulnerable students. Additionally, Campus Compact's intentional hiring practices have led to a diverse staff of incredible folks that have exhibited patience, guidance, and leadership as our organization has shifted toward focusing on racial justice. I hold a great deal of gratitude for being able to participate in collaborative learning that has shaped my own equity lens in order to better serve our communities.
What is next for you?
I will be attending Portland State University this fall to obtain my Master's in Social Work. I hope to be serving queer populations through clinical mental health and policy work.
What would you say to the next person to take on your job(s)?
Do not be afraid to slow down the process. Pause and reflect. Offer as much gratitude to those around you as possible. Center your work around black feminist ideology and practice. Collect and utilize solid data. Remember the positive impacts of your indirect work when tasks are overwhelming. Thank your AmeriCorps members for their service.
What roles have you held at Campus Compact?
Before becoming a staff person at Campus Compact, I served four terms as an AmeriCorps Member. My first term was as a 2012 Summer VISTA in partnership with Open School’s Step Up program at Roosevelt High School. Then I served as our Connect2Complete AmeriCorps Leader for two consecutive terms (program years 2014-15 and 2015-2016) and VISTA Leader (2016-2017). I have been the Curriculum and Training Manager at Campus Compact since August 2017.
What was the hardest thing about working here?
Campus Compact is a racial justice and equity, education nonprofit. In our work, we are striving to eradicate the systemic barriers that disallow students of color, low-income students, and students from other, interconnected and various historically marginalized identities to thrive in schools or to be seen and able to be their full authentic selves. As a woman of color, a second generation immigrant, a descendent of refugees, a first generation college student, my professional pursuits are very personal. My work is intertwined with my identity and commitment and love I have to myself, family, friends and community. That is hard. It’s not just a 9-5 job that I can be done with at the end of a “work day.” Learning about, and then dedicating my life to eradicating, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism and more has completed changed my life and is extremely, emotionally draining. And it makes sense but has required me to do a lot of inner work and to really, deeply, center and myself and my wellness in order to continue forward. I’m still working on that.
What was the best thing about working here?
At the same time that working at Campus Compact has been difficult, it has been utterly amazing to build the relationships that I have been able to build, with those who are working alongside with me in these efforts to advance equity in Oregon’s education institutions. We always say we don’t do this work in a vacuum. This is so true. The greatest part of the work has been the relationships I have been able to build. Relationships with awe inspiring colleagues who push me/us consistently to expand, to reflect, to ‘walk our equity talk’ and more; thoughtful and powerful youth workers and community advocates who serve as our AmeriCorps Members across the state; resilient elders and professionals of color who offer me grace, guidance and resolve; as well as so many valued partners and supporters of our work to promote learning spaces of belonging for students in Oregon.
What is next for you?
My transition isn’t coming for a little while longer, so right now I’m still very much in an open and exploring space. I’ve loved my time with Campus Compact. I’m ready for something else. What I’m definitely seeking is a space where I can continue to learn, expand, and to be in closer proximity to my community.
What would you say to the next person to take on your job(s)?
Enter with an open heart and open eyes. Trust your intuition. Challenge what you think you know. Lean in. Set boundaries. Ask for help. Share gratitude, and don’t forget to appreciate yourself. Take care of yourself. Deepen your roots. Do the inner work. The inner-work is community work; healing the self does heal the community. Take your time. Adjust as often as needed. Seek and experience joy along the way.
What roles have you held at Campus Compact of Oregon?
I came to Campus Compact in 2015 as a VISTA Leader. Since 2016 I have held the position of Communications and Development Manager. I have also led a collaborative project to revamp our recruitment process for AmeriCorps members and coordinated our team’s efforts to recruit ~40 AmeriCorps members each school year.
What was the hardest thing about working here?
Working at a tiny organization with a huge reach across the state meant that I often felt like I was wearing 7 or 8 hats and I found it challenging to give 100% to any aspect of my job when there were so many directions I was pulled in. Additionally, we have struggled with unstable funding during some of my years here and as someone responsible for fundraising, this was really stressful for me.
What was the best thing about working here?
Working at Campus Compact changed my life and deeply affected me as a person in permanent ways. I was a young, mostly untested professional when I joined the team and I was trusted to try things like grant writing and website management for the very first time. I was given opportunities like getting certified to administer the Intercultural Development Inventory that I get to take with me in my future career. As a white person doing racial justice work, I was pushed to examine my own internalized biases and white supremacy over and over again, which was at times extremely challenging and uncomfortable, but ultimately an incredible gift to be around such passionate, brilliant, loving people willing to be with my through that process. Finally, the opportunity to get to know, teach, and learn alongside so many educators at varying points in their careers, from AmeriCorps members to college Presidents, was truly special and unusual. I feel incredibly proud to serve the AmeriCrops members and students that we do and also deeply appreciative of all the ways they challenge our organization, and me personally, to be more authentic in our pursuit of justice.
What is next for you?
I am starting graduate school in fall 2019 at Lewis and Clark College to pursue my MA in Professional Mental Health Counseling!
What would you like to say to the next person to take on your job(s)?
Because so much of Campus Compact’s current budget comes from AmeriCorps grants, our funding is not very flexible. And in order to make a lot of the visions and dreams we have for what this organization could be and how we could realize our equity mission both internally and externally, we need to diversify our funding sources and broaden our base of support. The role of a Communications and Marketing Manager is crucial at the moment to tell stories of our impact, get the word out in the community about both the resources we have available and the need we have, and ultimately build partnerships and a donor base that will change the way we can run this organization.
April 12th, 2019
Josh Todd, Executive Director
On Valentine’s Day, Marisol Morales the Vice President of Network Leadership and national staff in charge of advancing racial equity throughout Campus Compact launched L.O.V.E Notes, a blog on Living Our Value of Equity. Here in Oregon we have been investing significant staff time, human resources, and emotional labor to live out our value of equity by taking an intentional deep dive into our internal practices, policies, procedures, and the harm that has been caused to our staff of color. That process has been led by our Educational Equity Program Manager Kaycie Lopez Jones and I want to thank her publicly for guiding this important work and thank all of our staff for committing the time and energy to engage in this process.
When I thought about giving these remarks I heard the voice of our staff, in my head asking how we (and by that they meant me) could live out our value of equity without having a more public accounting for the ways in which we failed and a transparent acknowledgement of the pain that had been caused. My remarks today are intended as a public accounting of the lessons I have learned and the mistakes that taught me those lessons. These remarks are also, an open love letter to all the people who make this network great and have moved us collectively forward towards a vision of a more just and equitable education system. Even getting to this place to share these remarks have been a journey of love and trust building. I shared these remarks with staff to make sure they were comfortable with what I was going to say and I know that this moment and the lessons we have learned wouldn’t have been possible without deep, ongoing work to build trust through honesty, accountability, and change. This is a continuation of that journey.
This year has been an incredibly challenging financial year for Campus Compact. When I first came into the organization we faced a 120K deficit (16% of our total budget), 6 months into the fiscal year, with no plan to close the gap. We instituted our first fundraiser, A Night in Serve-landia, our first individual giving and corporate giving campaigns, we cut expenses, and unfortunately were forced to use all the reserves the agency had at the time. We got back into the black and didn’t have to lay off staff. That first 6 months though has placed us on a dangerous edge where any significant drop in revenue, without reserves to cushion us, becomes a crisis. My reaction to this has been to protect staff from the stress and to take on more. To shield them and in my mind allow them to do their work without distraction. But what this also does is cut off any chance of collective solutions to our problems and creates a barrier between me and the rest of staff because I have chosen to be parental instead of honest. This year, through our internal equity process and the support of an amazing facilitator and mentor Keela Johnson, we worked together to address financial challenges that arose. We were a team instead of an Executive Director and staff. For positional leaders in the audience, my lesson was that transparency is always better than secrecy, even if done for ostensibly good reasons. Adults don’t need to be parented and protected, they need to be trusted and engaged.
During our financial troubles this year, I also thought for a brief period that we would have to layoff one of our staff. My decision making was that a large deficit existed in one program and so that program manager, who is a woman of color, would have to be laid off. I shared that possibility with them and obviously it caused the individual staff member but also our entire team a lot of pain and distress. One staff member, also a woman of color, confided in me how it made her feel, saying: “If this is what we’ll do, discard a Black woman/staff of color in times of financial crisis or stress, than how are we different than any other organizations? How are we equitable?”
Today I want to publicly apologize for that. The staff person I suggested we lay off, was the person who pointed out to me the ways in which I was parenting, instead of leading. That comment led us to have real conversations about our financial situation as a team and creative solutions came out that I couldn’t have come up with on my own. We had to undo the power structure that existed which placed these types of decisions outside the hands of the collective and into the hands of one person. It also forced me to reflect on why this was the right course of action and I came to a profound realization. If we were an engineering firm and faced financial challenges we wouldn’t lay off our engineers- they are the reason we exist and how the core of our mission is achieved. As a racial justice organization, our staff of color and the communities they represent are the reason we exist and they are the most knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to understanding how to navigate systems that perpetuate racism and ultimately how to transform them. My decision making was grounded in conventional wisdom and business as usual - anytime we are doing business as usual we are perpetuating racism and white supremacy because that is at the foundation of all our systems. The importance of mindfulness in this work was again highlighted for me because I only was able to understand the mistake I was making and take a different course because I slowed down and took time to think differently. To experience what was coming up for me and become aware that the decision I was about to make was the absolute wrong one.
Going slow and rethinking our common practices and policies takes an incredible amount of work for me because most systems, common practices and policies aren’t harmful to me. They don’t leave a negative impact. As a white man, unless I am hyper vigilant in every moment and looking for how decisions, investments, practices, and programs might negatively impact folxs with less societal privilege than me I can easily miss those harmful impacts. Even when I am hyper vigilant I still miss stuff because I am always translating, always using learned knowledge to critique systems, never life knowledge. For those who experience these same policies and practices as harmful on a daily basis, rethinking these systems is far easier. They have had years of practice envisioning how things could be different! For white leaders in the audience who are in positions to hire folxs of color to help improve outcomes for students and faculty and staff of color - listen to them, especially when you don’t understand or even disagree with them. Connect them to real power to create change and trust that they are the experts.
One final example and by no means all or the last of my mistakes, centers on a sensitive topic, one we aren’t suppose to talk about - compensation.
Before coming to Campus Compact and working in the nonprofit sector I worked my entire career in the public sector, specifically local government. What I saw modeled there were clear job descriptions with structured pay tiers based on years of service, applied equally across everyone in that job class. It seemed fair and I brought that with me to Campus Compact. All staff doing similar jobs made roughly the same amount of money with differences attributed to tenure in the position. This was the definition of equality, not equity. Equality is paying everyone the same, equity is paying them what they deserve. When one of our staff was hired they were more educated, more experienced, and had life experience that prepared them for applying an equity lens to their program above what other program managers had but they were paid the same or in one case, less. When this staff member brought their concerns to me, I didn’t really think the concerns were valid because the difference in pay between staff was small and attributed to years on the job. It took almost a year and half for our team to convince me that this needed to change and another year for me to fully understand why. During that time, we perpetuated a historical truth that black people’s labor, especially black women’s labor has been underpaid, undervalued, and exploited.
In this work, those with life experience of racism are the most qualified to understand both how to navigate and transform systems but also how to create engagements which are healing spaces and trauma informed for participants of color because they have experienced the harm and trauma of other so-called safe spaces where people come together to talk about race. They also will always carry a heavier workload because other folxs of color will approach and confide in them more frequently than they would a white trainer AND white participants are more likely to want them to help explain concepts they don’t understand and at times convince them why what they have said is correct. That workload, the emotional labor, isn’t compensated. It doesn’t show up on a job description and yet if any of us have hired staff of color to do equity work or just to be in a predominantly white space it is likely if not guaranteed that they are carrying a heavy emotional labor workload. All of the Latinx teachers who have and will continue to come out of Chemeketa's Teach Learn Grown program (which our College Access Corps members support) will stand up in front of rooms that are 90% Latinx and students will see, sometimes for the first time a teacher that looks like them. Those teachers will bear a different weight of expectation from their students, one that must be acknowledged. I am not saying there is no place for white people in this work. I have plenty of stories of how white participants in our engagements will listen to me better even if I am saying the exact same thing as one of my colleagues of color. This work must include white leaders because the problem of racism and racial superiority lies with us but we must also acknowledge that race is an experience and as such the way employment, especially employment centered on equity and justice, looks and feels different, when done by folxs of color then it does when done by white folxs.
Through our internal equity roadmap process we have recently adopted a new policy which creates a structured incentive for both education and experience so we are paying people what they deserve not just the same. The policy also begins to address and compensate for the knowledge, skills, and abilities that folxs with life experience gained by navigating racism should be compensated for- especially when their job is specifically helping others think through how to transform systems to deconstruct racism and white supremacy. These changes have been hard fought by our staff and in many cases have happened in spite of me not because of me.
Too often the story I hear about Campus Compact centers on me and how I helped the board transform from a service-learning organization to a racial justice organization that uses service as a tool to achieve educational equity. Today I want to clearly say we are the organization we are because of this collective of brilliant and amazing professionals both staff and partners. To be able to LOVE, we needed Mila and Kaycie and Carmen to hold clear visions, speak truth to power, and push for change. Our AmeriCorps program managers of color were the first to apply an equity lens to their AmeriCorps programs, member recruitment, and supervisor evaluation and support which is the foundation and largest touch points we have with our network. Campus Compact wouldn’t be able to LOVE without Joyce Coleman, our former board member who, while the VP of Student Services at Umpqua Community College, first sent me readings on what emotional labor was, or Daniel Eisen at Pacific University who in the first cohort of ELSEE said his goal was “to decolonize the mind” before I even understood that decolonization was an entire field of study. Campus Compact couldn’t LOVE without Sonali Sangeeta Balajee who has been such a strong thought partner and participant/teacher in our growth and evolution. Her leadership of the ELSEE and bringing in her developing frame around Belonging and spirituality have transformed what we see as equity work.
I have already mentioned her, but to Keela Johnson, our mediator and facilitator who lovingly asked us to hold each other’s hands, look into each other’s eyes, and ask for what we need, thank you. Our community advisory board for VISTA, strong, brilliant amazing community members who ground our decision making in the needs of the community and give so much to us. Yosha, Ray, & Shanice are here with us today, thank you so much. To our Board of Directors who dedicate so much of their time and resources to support us, thank you! The largest love note of all, to our amazing AmeriCorps members who serve across the State, on the lowest of incomes, sacrificing their comfort for a calling to service that promotes equity within all our member institutions. Members like Paulina you heard about earlier. If Paulina our C2C member had not spoke the language of her young student from Cuba he wouldn’t have likely opened up to her. We are so glad he did and she was there to support him or all the students supported and encouraged by Ruth at PCC Rock Creek, changing lives by creating the infrastructure for PCC to institute mentors who look like their students. These stories exist all over the State because of Campus Compact and the AmeriCorps members we serving in Oregon through our agency and I celebrate them. But even as I celebrate them and their service I am also struck by how much work we still have to do. We can’t fully Live Our Value of Equity when all of our AmeriCorps members receive poverty level living allowances. Our programs are built on the exploitation of their labor because we lack the financial ability to increase their living allowance above the minimum or provide supports like housing and food for members like VISTAs who aren’t allowed to make above the poverty line. This is especially hard for us when we have done the intentional work of transforming our recruitment process to ensure our AmeriCorps members represent the communities they are serving and therefore are predominantly members of color feeling this negative impact. We keep striving though for a more equitable future while recognizing our limitations and mistakes along the way.
The ability to Live Out our Value of Equity, to LOVE, is the work of our collective, it doesn’t rest on any one person - nor should it. This room is filled with LOVE. We love each of you and are so grateful that you are on this journey with us and here to support Campus Compact living out our value of Equity.
We caught up with VISTA alumna Nelda Reyes, about two of her recent projects. Nelda is an evaluator, researcher, artist, actress, and—now—consultant and author!
Nelda is the primary consultant at AB Cultural Drivers, a business she started which works “in collaboration with researchers, evaluators, program developers, foundations and organizations to assess, investigate and develop culturally specific projects…specializ[ing] in cultural and educational projects involving Latino communities in the United States and Latin America.” Nelda’s local clients include the Library Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, OMSI, Portland Art Museum, and more. Check out their services here!
Nelda is also the author (alongside collaborator Gerardo Calderon) of Huehuetlatolli: The Wise Tales of My People, published in 2018. The book is a duo-lingual adaptation of legends from some of the most influential indigenous cultures of the Americas which are still a vital part of contemporary Mexican culture: the Aztec, the Huichol, and the Maya. Each section features a legend, a traditional song, and an art-based activity. The book includes an audio CD with songs performed in the original indigenous languages and also has spoken directions to facilitate the art-based activities. Learn more and get the book here!
How did your year as a VISTA contribute to where you are now?
When I was a VISTA I was doing work in evaluation with Latino Network. It was that year that I said, I’m going to go from being a full-time employee doing research and evaluation to actually try to see what it would be to have my own business and start as an independent consultant.
That year helped solidify so much for me. To be alongside a whole group of people doing all different kinds of work with a similar goal of equity, to learn from one another… that was powerful for me. It was like all these things I knew already and felt inside were confirmed because I could share a vision with the whole group.
Tell us about your consulting business.
Research and evaluation is very technical, but it’s still about people. I realized that as I consultant, I would be able to do work for nonprofits, foundations, eventually government and academic institutions where I would be able to influence the way things are done, because through evaluation you can show impact. I could also influence the work of practitioners. If I am evaluating an educational program, I could support educators to have deeper insight on what they are doing and how to improve their practice.
Always I have been drawn to working with communities who have not been listened to before. I don’t want to be an external evaluator who comes and gives you a report. I want to partner with other professionals doing this work, to embed the practices and the values that I believe into their work. And because of the nature of equity work, and you guys at Campus Compact know this well because I’ve learned from you – once you start and you take off the blinders, there’s no going back. You start transforming yourself and you cannot see the world in the same way. So in my evaluation work I embed my values of lifting this veil, to have more influence to change the whole research and evaluation field. So my business is that I am a partner – I will partner with a principal investigator and say okay you want to listen to this community? This is how we can do that, and we’ll do it together. And that’s how I’ve been doing my work, which has been great! It’s very involved. I spend a lot of time talking, I put a lot of love in each of my clients and my projects but it’s happening, which is super exciting.
Tell us about your book!
Different things intersected to inspire me to make this book. I had a great great grandmother, she is indigenous from the east coast of Mexico who lived to be like 109 years old. So when I was little she would tell stories and by being around her and her influence, I developed a love for stories and I appreciated her perspective and it felt so different but I didn’t know why. Then later I learned that she had grown up so differently – from indigenous roots. I have an aunt who used to work with indigenous communities in the western side of Mexico, in Chiapas, from the Mayan and other cultures. She would bring me whenever she could. I would be with them and learn from them in this very remote place and do social service projects, like vaccinations and things. Those trips really opened my mind to different ways of living, I would go to festivities and ceremonies, I saw things that you don’t get to see unless you are there. You could only go in on airplanes to some of these communities as there’s no roads!
When I came here to the U.S I met Gerardo, who did the sound and music for the book, who has been studying all the pre-Columbian instruments, the rhythms, particularly from the central valley of Mexico. I loved this, and had this idea and suggested we do this together. So I started researching stories, went into archives of historical books from monks and things about the first time they came to the Americas. Eventually we selected 3 cultures from Mesoamerica, and song and stories from each to go into the book. I had the opportunity to go visit. The 3 languages are completely different; the way they live is completely different.
This took me about 6 years to put together. Funding came from RACC for the illustrations and book design. We did a digital version of it, but my dream was always to have a physical book because I know how important that is for children, for families, especially for our communities to promote literacy. And we finally did it! My goal is to have it in every library in this country and if I can in Mexico too. This is about access to stories. I want kids to feel proud, feel excited about learning about this. Just so people know, a little bit, these cultures are alive, they are so beautiful and the languages too.
What’s next for you?
At some point, one of the things that I’m dreaming about is to create a learning community for the field of research and evaluation in the region. A while ago the Oregon Program Evaluation Association they hosted me and some peers to present a session to people in the field to talk about what is the role of a researcher/evaluator in equity – at the personal, institutional, community levels. We realized that our field is in the early stages in terms of understanding our role as professionals in equity. So one of my big dreams is to put together a model of community learning for researchers and evaluators, so we can all learn what our role in equity means. This is another way that I think I could influence the field, so that we become more aware. So I’ve had some initial conversations and people are really excited! People from higher education could get involved with this, could be a good opportunity! I am an instigator here I feel… but in the best way!
We recently spoke with VISTA alumna Angela Frazier, about her journey since her service year. Angela is a speaker, mental health activist, educator and leader in the health field. Below are some highlights from that conversation!
Tell me about your VISTA service. Looking back, what were some of the highlights?
I served at Black Parent Initiative as Community Operations Coordinator. It was my first job out of undergrad – actually, I graduated in December 2014 so I was still in school for the first part! I was contacted by the Program Manger at BPI, who asked me if I was interested in being an AmeriCorps employee, and I didn’t know what that was, but I was interested in BPI. BPI promotes literacy in education for parents of black and multi-ethnic children. In such a white city as Portland this was a unique focus and importance to me. We partnered with Portland Public Schools and brought cultural and diversity engagement nights to the schools. We served a lot of people; one thing I did was volunteer recruitment, and I got my sorority sisters and other PSU fraternities and sororities involved. I really liked being a VISTA because it was like an internship where you are able to make mistakes, come up with ideas, and try new things. I ended up writing my first grant while I was there, to fund a community garden. It was a little grant, just $5,000 from the Portland Timbers, but I got my first grant that I ever wrote! I think writing my first grant and getting it really taught me that I was a good writer. It was funny because they just assigned it to me and I just said yes – I’ll say yes to almost any opportunity. I didn’t have any plans for how it would go. But then I actually got to go down to the Timbers game during half time to accept the grant. It helped me build my confidence and launch my career. I also loved In Service Trainings, those were some of the best conversations. I can only imagine what they are like now!
What did you do after finishing your VISTA Service?
I became a Grant and Communications Coordinator at Bradley Angle, an organization that serves everyone affected by domestic violence. At that time my mom was dealing with an abusive relationship. While working there I was talking with advocates about how to navigate her situation. My mom ended up taking her own life in April 2016 and Bradley Angle opened the Tami Best Emergency Shelter in December 2016, named in her honor. Although I’ve moved away from Portland now, I am still actively involved. Every year I do a Mother’s Day event with gift baskets for the women staying in the shelter. This year we’ve added a special component, a panel about mental health and domestic violence for the community to attend.
After Bradley Angle I came to Houston and received my Masters’ of Public Health in Community Health Practice. I saw that The University of Texas Health Science Center (UT Health) was a good program and I wanted to go somewhere warm, and more diverse than Portland. I wanted a fresh start. I received my Masters in May 2018 and was honored as the Student Commencement Speaker. Now I am working at Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. I also do public speaking.
Tell us more about being a public speaker.
I speak about mental health, domestic violence, suicide prevention, and my own journey. Mental health is such a taboo conversation – and so as a speaker I bring this conversation into different settings like churches, schools, and nonprofits. I always frame my talk around the organization and what their focus is. Last year for example, I spoke at Portland State University for International Day of the Girl. It was an event for The White Shield Center that provides a safe learning environment for girls between the ages of 12 and 20. I talked about my path, overcoming certain challenges, and the importance of education and mentorship.
What would you say to current AmeriCorps members?
Take every opportunity that comes your way, because you never know where it’s going to lead you. I was approached about being a VISTA and had not idea what it was. Then I wrote a grant and that made it possible for me to apply to a Grant Coordinator, which led to my relationship with Bradley Angle. After that my mother's shelter was opened. It was a domino effect. Even with the public speaking, I just had someone contact me about a position as a program manager for suicide prevention.
I am always a resource too – if there’s anyone interested in what I do, I am a huge networker, I am always available and would love to talk!
Learn more about Angela’s public speaking – and book her to speak at your event! – on her website.
Kim Louvin is currently working as a School Social Worker in the Gresham-Barlow School District.
Kim served as a VISTA Member with Oregon Campus Compact at Concordia University working to expand access to, increase capacity of, and strengthen the social justice focus of Concordia University's Office of Service Leadership Alternative Break Leadership Experiences as well as local volunteer opportunities for students. Kim relocated to Portland, Oregon just weeks before beginning her service from the East Coast and was brand new to all things AmeriCorps and all things Portland. The task of 'getting things done' was the motto Kim lived by during her 2 years of service and has carried into each role and experience after. AmeriCorps VISTA showed Kim the breadth of impact of poverty and how systems often designed to strengthen communities can inadvertently create barriers and divisions for those most vulnerable in our society if not challenged to rise to become more equitable and accessible. With this knowledge, Kim chose to pursue graduate work in social work with a focus on communities and macro-level interventions as well as a license in School Social Work to work to 'get things done' to set students and families up for success and instill skills and strategies to reach their dreams amidst the realities of today's world.
After graduate school, Kim spent several years working at a local nonprofit within the Community Schools department in local school districts to help families access community resources, navigate school, and participate in opportunities to for fun extended day classes, activities, and groups designed to promote closing the achievement gap while having fun, learning new things, and making new friends along the way. Kim's time with AmeriCorps VISTA through Campus Compact provided daily opportunities through interactions with students, systems, and communities to learn that the impacts and origins of poverty in our community are not 'one size fits all' nor do they manifest in the same way in each individual. Campus Compact allowed Kim the opportunity to scratch the surface of Trauma Informed and Culturally Responsive practices and the connections to pursue graduate work and future employment with a local nonprofit working to move lives forward and ultimately a school district working to empower and inspire each student. As any AmeriCorps alumni knows, some days "the work" is getting stuff done to find donations for an upcoming community service project, other days it's writing a 50 page manual on how to continue sustaining built capacity, and other days its wishing you can speak truth to power but knowing that's often a prohibited activity while in service. Kim's 2 years of service built the foundation necessary to pursue social work, see the world through an equity lens, and pursue a better world personally and professionally. Throughout her 2 years and beyond, Kim's favorite quote became "the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do" and while she may not have invented the iPhone as Steve Jobs did, she's certainly carried the mission of "getting things done" into every step of every day in a way instilled deep within through 2 years of service.
College Access Corps Leader 2017-18
"My journey as a professional began at Campus Compact of Oregon as the College Access Corps Team Leader. In my service I grew to learn more about my passion for justice and how to apply concepts of equity in any workplace. While I was honored to prepare and lead trainings for the College Access Corps members that I worked with (as well as the other general Campus Compact members), the most impactful part of my service were the relationships I made through it. Often times the Campus Compact office (and training spaces) were places of healing through solidarity, learning through intentionality, and making progress through collaboration. Before my service ended, I was sad to think about never having a work space like that again, but I have learned that a part of Campus Compact has stayed with me since then.
Now I work two jobs (because capitalism and student loans) - one as an Administrative Assistant in the Special Education Department at a Corvallis middle school, and the other as a Sales Professional at Fred Meyer Jewelers (because shiny things) as I try to figure out what the rest of my life and equity journey will look like. I am leaning towards a career in school or clinical counseling and intend to apply to a program at OSU (Go Beavs!).
Recently I've been organizing a drive for my island home of Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, since it was hit by Super Typhoon Yutu just last week. The island has intermittent cellular service, water, and utilities was wiped out. My father believes the island would have full power up and running within 8 to 12 months! I am in the process of getting shipments of supplies to the island and funds raised in collaboration with Team Koka, an on-island charitable organization. If you would like to contribute please do so here or Venmo (team-koka)! For more information feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Si yu'us ma'ase
VISTA at Southern Oregon University 2013-14 and University of Oregon 2014-15
"I served two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA - first at Southern Oregon University, then at the University of Oregon. I spent a few more years in Eugene after my service wrapped up, working for a telecommunications provider and a labor union. In May 2017, I accepted the AmeriCorps Program Manager position at Utah Campus Compact in Salt Lake City, Utah. In July 2018, we consolidated programs in our office and rebranded ourselves as the Utah Higher Education AmeriCorps Network (UHEAN). At the same time, I moved into the director role.
My job is huge! We enroll 850 part-time AmeriCorps members, who are spread out at seven colleges and universities up and down the I-15 corridor. Nearly all of our members are full-time college students who combine their service with their academic major.
An unsung benefit of VISTA service is that members learn how to quickly develop relationships at their service site and with community partners. UHEAN places members at 150 sites around the state, many of which have joined our program within the past two years. It's my job to on-board them and set them up for success. Having served at two universities, I also learned how to navigate higher education bureaucracies, a skill that comes in handy when managing such a large program.
Outside of work, I have maintained my commitment to serving my community. I mentor high school students in a writing program, serve on a city committee that seeks to increase educational attainment for its residents, and provide support for a service scholarship competition."