This conversation is the first of a series of interviews held with nonprofits using Field Day, where we highlight the important work they’re doing in local communities.
For more than 50 years, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC + RAHS) has held a steadfast role in our local community in reconnecting at-risk youth affected by poverty, family instability, and houselessness with education and work opportunities. We interviewed Joe McFerrin II, President and CEO of POIC + RAHS, and explored some of the nonprofit’s history, many services it provides, and ways that engagement from the community supports its mission.
As we publish this, POIC + RAHS is at 98% of its fundraising goal on Willamette Weekly’s 2021 Give!Guide. To make pushing POIC + RAHS over the finish line even sweeter, we’re extending your chance to win a $35 Field Day Give Card to donations made on December 30 and 31. Head over to POIC + RAHS on Give!Guide to donate!
Without further ado, let's hear from Joe.
To start out, can you summarize the mission of POIC + RAHS?
Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center + Rosemary Anderson High School is committed to the success of at-risk youth and adults, providing the highest quality services in education, mentoring, family outreach, employment training, and placement.
Our major programs include the Rosemary Anderson Schools, Work Opportunities Training, Community Healing Initiative, Youth Services, and Community Safety. We reconnect alienated at-risk youth and adults affected by poverty, family instability, and homelessness with education, career training, and culturally-specific wraparound programs, including services for families impacted by the criminal justice system.
We’d love to hear about the history of POIC + RAHS. Can you give us some background on how the nonprofit came to be?
POIC was established in 1967 in North Portland as part of the OIC of America network. From inception until 1983, POIC was an adult workforce training program, at which point POIC shifted its services to struggling youth and opened its first high school, named after Executive Director Rosemary Anderson. Today, POIC + RAHS serves more than 3,000 students, work trainees, and families annually – 80% of whom are Black or Latinx.
What services do you provide today?
We have a unique combination of services that sets our students up for success, focusing on three key areas:
Improving grad rates for struggling students through accredited education; disrupting community violence through violence prevention and intervention programs; and increasing and improving employment rates by providing a career path through employment training. Internships and pre-apprenticeship programs give underserved youth and adults the opportunity to be part of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
To elaborate on disrupting community violence, can you tell us about the Public Safety Village?
This summer, POIC + RAHS launched the Public Safety Village – also known as the Village. Through the Village, we activated and are supporting a group of 11 Black-led grassroots organizations driven by individuals who have been impacted or involved in community violence in the past.
This group provides important engagement services for youth and families while participating in personal restorative justice. These messengers, who once brought harm to the community, are now dedicated to healing it. This effort has already garnered generous support from Multnomah County’s Community Justice Department, the City of Portland’s Office of Violence Prevention, and The Oregon Community Foundation.
What does your commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity look like?
POIC + RAHS is a minority-led nonprofit. More than 50% of our executive leadership identify as people of color, as well as over 65% of our staff – and in some programs, up to 90%. The majority of those served identify as Black or African American. By hiring from the communities we serve, welcoming former students onto our board of directors, and checking in with participants and partners regularly, the voices of those we reach are included and amplified at every level within our organization.
How is your cause supported by volunteer engagement?
Giving time at our events, such as our back-to-school backpack events, Tech/STEM Fairs, and career panels, is a way that volunteers prove invaluable to our organization. Also, volunteers are able to show our scholars the face of success through mentoring. We invite mentors with socioeconomic backgrounds similar to our mentees to partner with our students – it makes a profound difference.
What’s one volunteer activity you’ve done in the past and are planning to do in the future? How does it impact the folks you serve?
We will be calling on volunteers if we host vaccine events again in 2022. We could not have gotten members of our community vaccinated at those events in 2021 without help from our partners and volunteers.
One of our goals into the new year is to expand how we tap into volunteer engagement, and we’re eager to work with Field Day to make that happen.
Learn more about POIC + RAHS by visiting their website, portlandoic.org.