At GOOD, our mission is simple — we want to use what we do (roasting coffee / making coffee in inspiring spaces) — to create delight for others. We believe in the value of this mission. We also believe that when we pursue our mission in a localized context (the city of Portland) we have the opportunity to invest in a better Portland for all. After spending years using our coffee bars trying to create better ‘feels’ for Portlanders & guests alike, we launched a project directed at supporting organizations who are (in very tangible ways) building a better Portland for all. We call this project COMMON GOOD.
When we launched COMMON GOOD the objective was simple:
- Use the COMMON GOOD packaging experience to tell the story of the great work this organization is doing in our city. As a result, get people connected with this great organization.
- Donate 20% of the sales of COMMON GOOD to the current organization being highlighted.
It was clear after getting connected to Open School through a friendly introduction, that OS was an organization truly committed to using innovative thinking, superb education, and lots of time + effort to invest in the next generation of Portlanders (children.) When we sat with Open School to discuss their work it became clear that they were doing at the Junior High / High School level what had opened our eyes to KairosPDX’s (a previous COMMON GOOD project) impact in the K-5 space. Open School was taking a holistic approach to supporting, mentoring and educating kids / families.
One of the best things about Portland is being a part of a community who cares. There are so many educators and families working hard to make life better for younger generations. But Portland has a lot of work to be done when it comes to serving all Portland’s children — not just children of privilege.
The education system nationwide struggles with the “achievement gap” — the problem that kids of color and those who have experienced poverty have lower educational outcomes than their white and higher-income peers. And unfortunately, the problem is worse here. In Portland the achievement gap between white students and black students is 53 percent, compared to a statewide average of 29 percent.
We were blown away when we learned that for the past five years, Open School programs have seen little to no gaps between students of color and white students in the areas of attendance, retention, discipline, on-time credit attainment, and growth in benchmark test scores in reading and math. It’s so inspiring to see that their unique, relationship-based model works to solve a seemingly intractable problem.
Aside from believing it’s wrong that systemic barriers exist between a significant group of Portland kids and their future academic / general life success, we believe that the best future Portland is going be led by a talented, diverse group of children who are succeeding, despite achievement gap issues, with the support of groups like Open School.
After some time spent getting familiar with Open School’s mission and really resonating with their approach as evidenced in the following equity statement — “At Open School we are committed to facing and addressing the inequity caused by systemic oppression. Specifically, we are committed to eliminating race and poverty as predictors of student achievement and success in community, college, and career.” — we signed up with Open School to partner on the next chapter of COMMON GOOD.
On a typical Friday afternoon, we showed up to Open School’s campus in the Rockwood community in outer East Portland, to see in person what we had gotten so excited about through meetings and literature. We learned that the 7th- 12th grade school partners with 6 school districts which refer students who need something different than traditional school. With small class sizes, culturally-responsive classrooms and social-emotional support, their students find a learning environment that celebrates their diverse identities and supports their growth.
We were fortunate enough to have an Open School student, Rayanna, guide our campus tour. Not only did we get to hear about the school, but we got to hear a bit of Rayanna’s story. Our experience was nothing short of inspirational. Rayanna spoke with eloquence and authority on how the teachers and environment at Open School truly impact the youth to become leaders, engage life with a mission of growth and openness, and to work towards a thriving and equitable community.
Open School East is one of Open School’s two core programs that focus on their proven formula: ACADEMICS + EQUITY + ADVOCACY. The organization’s other program, Step Up, helps traditionally underserved 9th and 10th graders transition through their high school career with the support of an Advocate, who acts as a mentor, tutor, and family partner within the three Portland Public high schools — Roosevelt, Madison, and Franklin. Each year this program keeps 300 students in school, on track toward graduation, and thriving.
The stories and people we encountered and have come to know through Open School truly embody what we want to support through Common Good. The necessary work and advocacy being done is having a true influence on the youth in our city that need and deserve empowerment and love. Open School’s success at serving its diverse student body full of amazing children is helping our entire community learn how we can change education for the better. We couldn’t be more stoked and humbled to partner with Open School on the newest release of Common Good.
By Megan Lewis - Open School Director of Development and Alexander Pierpoint