Oregon college students give MLK Day of service at Portland's Roosevelt High School
Rake in hand, Deondrae Rhone looked over his shoulder at Roosevelt High School, where he graduated 2 1/2 years ago. He could easily imagine the message that about 800 collegians delivered Monday with their day of service on the North Portland campus.
"It will make a big impression, especially when the Roosevelt students find out who did it, that it was a lot of college students who actually were here," said Rhone, 20, a 2009 Roosevelt graduate and a junior at Portland State University. "It will inspire them in their academics."
Students from nine Oregon institutions of higher learning rose early on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and devoted their holiday to the high school in a massive outreach to Roosevelt students that education is a civil right and that college is within reach.
"I have chills seeing you all here," said Emily Gilliland, executive director of Oregon Campus Compact, at a morning pep rally in the Roosevelt gym. "I can't wait to unleash you all in the school."
When they did get to work, the college students raked leaves and edged Roosevelt's front lawn. They washed down lockers and painted fire hose boxes. They scraped wads of gum from the undersides of desks. They knitted scarves and caps for the school's teenage mothers.
And each college student made a sign that then was taped to each Roosevelt locker -- some carried quotes from King, others were personal expressions: "To think is a dangerous activity"; "College is waiting for you"; "Real text comes in books not ur fone."
In its third year, Oregon Campus Compact summons young adults to service, and Gilliland said the event at Roosevelt was the largest King Day mobilization of college students in the nation. The organization estimated that nearly 5,000 hours of volunteer time went into Roosevelt.
The volunteers came from Concordia University, George Fox University, Lewis & Clark College, Mount Hood Community College, Portland Community College, PSU, Reed College, the University of Portland and Warner Pacific College.
Roosevelt is emerging from a period of low test scores, plummeting enrollment and "a decline in hope," said Roosevelt Principal Charlene Williams. Today, she said, "Roosevelt is on the rise, and you can help turn this high school into the college-going machine that we know it could be."
Bronson Enos, 19, of Portland graduated from Open Meadow Alternative School, the first person in his family to earn a diploma. He is a freshman on full scholarship to Warner Pacific College. He said he hopes the locker signs will give Roosevelt students the uplift "to go do some work to get to college."
"I like this one," he said, picking up a sign that quotes Albert Einstein -- "It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer." -- and expresses the writer's personal hope: "I believe in you, and I hope that you believe in you, too."
Outside, Joshua Fleming, 17, of Estacada and a PSU engineering student, pushed an edger around Roosevelt's front sidewalk. "I'm a farm boy," he said. "I profited from a lot of people who gave their time to me." So when he learned of the Roosevelt service, "it sounded great to me."
Rhone, the Roosevelt graduate, raked leaves into a pile in Roosevelt's front yard. He said he's majoring in marketing and management at PSU, and he posts his grades on his Facebook page for all to see -- especially his 15-year-old brother."He tells me he's one of my biggest supporters, he's so proud that I'm in college," Rhone said, "and he hopes he'll be there soon."
-- Anne Saker, Twitter @dwtnPDXreporter
From the Oregonian, Jan 16, 2012