BUILD College Bound Families

Building Undergraduates through Inclusive Leadership Development

In 2015, Unite Oregon began partnering with Portland Public Schools to design, create, and implement BUILD, a program that serves 3,000 families with students in 7th/8th and 10th/11th graders in Jefferson, Madison, and Roosevelt clusters. Through BUILD, Unite Oregon provides parent programming on leadership development, issue organizing, and mobilizing. Each of these three clusters has dedicated full­-time Unite Oregon field staff called Parent Organizer--two Latino organizers, one Vietnamese organizer, one African organizer, a part-­time Americorp Vista Somali organizer, and an African­-American Program Director. Through this collaborative approach the program is addressing systemic barriers to educational attainment for many students of color.

BUILD Objectives

1. Work with a cohort of parents across clusters to ensure students are prepared and on-­track to graduate and advance to post­-secondary education opportunities;

2. Offer issue- ­based organizing campaigns identified and driven by parents; 

3. Advance an educational equity agenda that challenges systemic barriers to achievement in our schools and acknowledges inequities; and

4. Provide 9-month leadership development program offering workshops, leadership conferences, and mobilization activities to activate parents and drive change in our public school system.



Youth-Led Involvement through Engagement and Leadership Development 

YIELD is a new program delivered in partnership with Portland Public Schools Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) department. YIELD is a 9-month leadership development program serving 6th/7th and 8th grade students at Caesar Chavez, Ockley-Green, and Harrison Park middle schools. Through YIELD, Unite Oregon provides students with workshops and activities centered on leadership development, organizing, advocacy, and public speaking in order to equip students with the necessary skills to collectively address educational inequalities they face within their schools. Students will learn collaborative and solution-based approaches to issues, create a sense of belonging in schools, and gain the necessary skills to organize within their schools and communities. 


YIELD Objectives 

1. Work with 15-30 students across a cohort of clusters to provide bi-weekly leadership and personal development workshops and activities over a 9-month time period;

2. Offer student-led organizing campaigns identified and driven by students;

3. Improve students' academic performance and graduation rates;

4. Address and reduce disproportionate discipline rates for BIPOC-identifying youth by 50% during the first two years of the YIELD program.


Meet our YIELD Program Director!


Student Debt 

A college education is supposed to be a path to economic success and a better future. Instead, many students are having to choose between a low-wage, dead end job or taking on debt that will burden them and their families for decades. That’s not a sustainable path forward for Oregon.

In Oregon, years of ongoing state budget cuts to our colleges and universities has led to a steep increase in tuition and other fees. Adjusting for inflation, the state is paying about 60% LESS per student than it was twenty years ago. Students who pay tuition, are going into debt, and having trouble making it financially all while trying to gain an education and get a good job to be able to give back to the community and be a part of our economy.

About two-thirds of graduates of public and private nonprofit colleges have loans. With more people taking out loans, and taking out bigger loans, overall debt to finance a college education is on the rise. The total amount of outstanding student loan debt passed the $1-trillion mark in 2012 (College Reality Check, 2013). The average single student with loan debt has a debt-to-income ratio of .49, meaning they would pay about half of their monthly income toward student loans

Read more in our report Sentenced to Debt: The Hidden Costs of Unaffordable Education, which combines research, economic analysis, and data from a 2015 survey of students at Southern Oregon University (SOU) and Rogue Community College (RCC).

Among the key findings from the survey of SOU and RCC students:

► Nearly three-fourths reported expecting to graduate with debt levels between $25,000 and $75,000.
► More than two-thirds reported working at least one job.
► 57 percent said they struggle to afford housing, and 46 percent said they are food insecure.
► Two-thirds said they experience high levels of anxiety about their student loan debt, including 40 percent who suffer from extreme or overwhelming anxiety.

Based on its findings, the report recommends significant and systemic changes in Oregon’s higher education model. It recommends that the legislature:

► Fully fund Oregon’s public higher education so it is accessible to anyone seeking a higher education but unable to afford it.
► Raise revenue by mandating that corporations pay into the system that produces an educated workforce from which they benefit.
► Robustly fund financial aid programs.
► Increase the minimum wage to address the shortage of living-wage jobs and increase student financial stability during and after college.