The Pew Partnership for Civic Change is pleased to announce Open Meadow Alternative School’s STEP UP Program as the winner of the 2007 Civic Change Award. The annual award goes to individuals and organizations that are changing communities and the people who live in them in profound ways.
“This pioneering program means a larger number of eighth graders in Portland, Oregon, have a much better chance of getting to the first rung on the ladder of lifetime success—a high school diploma,” said Dr. Suzanne W. Morse, president of the Pew Partnership. “The STEP UP Program epitomizes what communities can do when they come together to support young people.”
STEP UP received the award for their creative and inventive approach to preparing at-risk eighth graders for high school. STEP UP is a collaborative program developed in 2003 by Open Meadow to ease what is often a tumultuous transition to high school and increase the high school graduation rate. STEP UP helps students who are falling behind by providing adult mentors, academic tutoring, pre-freshman year leadership camp, parental involvement activities, life skill development and teacher support. This program helps foster caring, ongoing relationships between adult mentors and students, with a focus on both academic and emotional support.
“STEP UP students have to believe they’re determined, intelligent people; that has to be a part of their identity,” explains Open Meadow STEP UP Program Director Hanif Fazal. “I tell them, ‘these things that happen in your life are going to be the reasons you fall apart or they are going to be the reasons that you have the biggest impact on the world.’”
“I learned that it is better to be yourself rather than be someone else. I also learned I’m very strong and I can do anything,” said one STEP UP Summer Camp participant.
There are many indicators that STEP UP is making real improvement for students. On average, STEP UP students have a 27% better grade average than their school peers. But among the many success statistics, one stands out above the rest: Of the 351 ninth grade students who participated in the program in 2005-06, every student remained enrolled in school at the end of the school year.
“We are so honored to be given this prestigious award,” said Andrew Mason, Executive Director of Open Meadow. “We know that reaching students in that critical time between 8th grade and high school makes all the difference in helping them succeed in school and our communities. It validates the recent decision to expand STEP UP to two more Portland high schools.”
In the pre-freshman year leadership camp, STEP UP students bond together, helping to develop a strong cohort that will take them through high school and ultimately connect them to their schools and their communities. The full program begins in middle school and extends through sophomore year of high school. Partners in the program include the City of Portland, Comcast Foundation, PGE Foundation, University of Portland, and the Portland Trailblazers.
“Because of our emphasis on getting all eighth graders ready for high school in the Pew Partnership’s Learning to Finish campaign, STEP UP is a model for all communities—large and small—on how to get involved and make a difference, “ said, Alma Powell, national board chair of the Pew Partnership
The Pew Partnership for Civic Change was founded in 1993 as a civic research organization. Using research, strategic seminars, and broad-based leadership development, it has helped hundreds of communities nationwide achieve a more thriving economic and civic life.