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Albina Head Start: A Two-Generational Approach

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

“It was an amazing experience to witness the graduation ceremony,” said SVP Portland’s Lead Partner David Smith

The “graduation ceremony” was indeed momentous. It was to honor the first cohort of 12 parents of Albina Head Start students who completed their job training program and received certificates in healthcare administration. These certificates will enable them to get quality entry-level jobs in local healthcare operations.  

It is the type of program that probably wouldn’t have happened without the work of a committed SVP Portland volunteer team able to bring Albina Head Start, Portland Community College, and local hospital organizations together to create a win-win-win program. Now more Albina Head Start families will be financially secure, which should mean that young children have a more stable family life.  

“A challenge with preschool education in traditionally underserved communities is the many systemic barriers families face, including lack of access to education and employment opportunities,” said Lauren Johnson, Executive Director of SVP Portland. “Creating this program will help parents of Head Start children secure meaningful employment and contribute to their families long-term well-being. Since parents are children’s first teachers, family economic stability as well as their sense of self-efficacy and empowerment can have a direct and positive impact on children’s early development.”

“Albina Head Start wanted to develop a workforce program for the parents of their students that went beyond what they had done before, which had previously been only training parents for work in preschool classrooms,” reflected David. Partner Jim Zuiches, Encore Fellow Dean Stearman, and David spent two years researching options, building relationships, and then bringing everyone together to implement the program.

“What we ended up with was a two-generation growth model,” said David. “Kids could look at their parents going to school and succeeding and the parents are looking at their kids’ successes in school as well.” 

This kind of role modeling is a side benefit to the program, which shows parents preparing themselves for work like their children will one day have to do. Research shows that parents who complete a college degree double their incomes, and a parent’s level of educational achievement is a strong predictor of a child’s success. 

“Prior to working on this project, I didn’t have an appreciation for the needs of the community,” David said. “I enjoyed connecting with the broader community and helping the Albina Head Start team.”

Ronnie Herndon, the Executive Director of Albina Headstart, was very appreciative of partnership with SVP Portland. “In my over 40 years leading Head Start, the SVP team is the best group of outside partners I have worked with,” he said.They quickly understood what Albina wanted to do in creating another parent training plan that would lead to employment. The SVP team methodically researched possibilities and made common sense recommendations. Their work led to Albina’s partnership with PCC that created a new program for Albina parents. This past June’s first graduating class is testimony to SVP’s skill and ability to help make life changing opportunities for Head Start parents that have few champions. Thank you, SVP.” 

The second cohort began their classes this fall, and we are optimistic that this program will only continue to grow in its impact in our community.

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