The Columbia Christian Schools (CCS) senior class of 2014, spent the year participating in Project Citizen, a program sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. They cooperatively evaluated their neighborhood, looking for public policy issues that they could address. Their efforts included evaluation of the issue, the development of alternative policies, and selection of one policy to address the problem. The work culminates in the development and implementation of an action plan, wherein they attempt to catch the eye of their community, local media and local legislators. Finally, students present their findings in the setting of a mock hearing, where their portfolio is evaluated, and can then become part of a state and national showcase. These projects help students be more aware of the research and evaluation process, present their findings professionally, but most importantly they learn to invest in their community.
This year two research teams formed at Columbia, one investigated storm drain pollution that is caught and held in catch basins; the other observed larceny in the Montavilla neighborhood. Each group spent many months collecting evidence, creating tools for evaluation, and interviewing a variety of people. Both were ultimately successful in contacting a number of influential people, and getting the word out about the issues they observed.
The Catch Basin group created a Facebook page to raise awareness, was able to present to the board of directors for the Columbia Riverkeepers who forwarded their research and solution for a city mandate for annual catch basin cleanout of all public and private basins on to a similar awareness organization, and sent their portfolio on to the office of Commissioner Nick Fish for consideration.
Because of their efforts, the group was able to present in May at the Oregon state showcase, where they took first place in the high school division. As a result, their board and binder were mailed to the national headquarters for the Center for Civic Education in Calabasas, California where they will be evaluated in July at a national showcase.
The group studying Larceny in the Montavilla neighborhood also experienced a measure of success, placing second at the Oregon state showcase. The group’s greater success came from the personal implementation of their policy. Calling for the East Precinct of the Portland Police, in coordination with Montavilla community organizations including Columbia Christian Schools, to host an annual awareness day in the neighborhood, students envisioned small community groups working cooperatively to host community events, encouraging the community to come together to discuss Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles and other ways to combat crime in the neighborhood.
Through their combined efforts, they hosted the first crime awareness event for the northeast section of the Montavilla neighborhood. Donating class funds, putting up fliers on neighborhood doors, posters at area businesses, and developing neighborhood business partnerships, this group of seniors was successful in hosting a fun evening for the community that included free activities for children, free food and beverage, and a well done presentation on CPTED principals by their own Sierra McKinney. The event was so well developed and implemented that East Portland Neighborhood Crime Prevention Coordinator, Brad Taylor, of the City of Portland nominated the group for an award for Best Public Safety Project this year, and the group was selected as the winner.
In a time when school tragedy is so prevalent, and sorrow so close to home, it is refreshing to see students with willing hearts and outstretched hands, looking not only outside of themselves, but with willingness to aid their school community and surrounding neighborhood. As their teacher, my heart could not be more full of joy and thanksgiving for these teenagers who are making a difference in Montavilla, and who will venture out to their next phase of life with arms stretched out “ask[ing] not what [their] country can do for [them], but what [they] can do for [their] country,” and fellow man.
Social Science Dept.
Columbia Christian Schools
413 NE 91st Avenue Portland, OR 97220
Our Mission: Columbia Christian Schools seeks to provide a Christ-centered education;
it seeks to assist students as they discover and develop their God-given potential;
and it aims to enable students to become responsible and productive members
of the church and community.