The U.S. Department of Education awarded a five-year, $28 million grant this week to Self Enhancement Inc. to allow SEI and partnering organizations to expand wraparound services to students in the Portland area.
Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced the award in a joint press release Tuesday.
“SEI and its partners have long, proven histories of helping vulnerable children and families throughout Portland by delivering quality services that make a hugely positive impact,” Wyden said in the release. “This grant recognizes the success of their model and how its innovative approach has earned support for its expansion to help even more Portlanders.”
SEI – along with several partnering organizations -- will receive $5.6 million per year to provide additional services to low-income youth, expanding its focus from schools inner northeast Portland to the Reynolds School District. According to SEI founder and CEO Tony Hopson, the organization will partner with Albina Head Start, Metropolitan Family Services, NAYA, IRCO, Latino Network and the United Way to deliver services.
The Promise Neighborhood Grant will allow Self Enhancement Inc. to serve more than 7,000 students and their families in some of Portland’s most underserved and under-resourced communities, through the Albina-Rockwood Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
Hopson told The Skanner the grant will enable SEI to expand the whole-school model it currently employs to schools in East Portland. That model is responsible, he said, for improving Jefferson’s graduation rates in recent years.
“When kids are failing and not doing well, oftentimes it’s not to do with what’s going on in school,” he said. The whole school model provides year-round support to families of color and low-income families. The Reynolds School District, situated in a part of the Portland area that has rapidly become more diverse at the same time Northeast Portland has become more gentrified, doesn’t have as strong a track record of serving children of color, though they participate in the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program and saw the need for expanded services, he added.
“They realized they couldn’t get the job done themselves and we realized we couldn’t get the job done by ourselves,” Hopson said.
“We believe this is a model that could impact graduation rates around this entire state,” Hopson said.
Hopson established SEI in 1981 as a one-week summer basketball camp for African American teens. By 1989 the nonprofit had grown into a year-round program providing academic support and wraparound services for African American students and their families.