Portland, January 21st, 2016. Trail Blazer Al Farouq Aminu hit the hardwood to celebrate the grand opening of the Friends of the Children 8,500 square foot youth service and community center. It’s a place that can make a difference. Officials say neighbors in the Rockwood region of East Multnomah County have to battle violence and crime. Many struggle to cope with the chronic stress that results from being poor and disadvantaged. Friends of the Children directly addresses such social problems through its successful mentorship program that focuses on changing the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

Trailblazer Al Farouq Aminu shared his vision with Friends of Children Founder Duncan Campbell

Trailblazer Al Farouq Aminu shared his vision with Friends of Children Founder Duncan Campbell.

The center also has places for kids to learn and Marie Marshall was lending a hand in the science lab.

The center also has places for kids to learn and Marie Marshall was lending a hand in the science lab.

The needs are great for youth and community services in this region. According to a 2014 Multnomah County report, Rockwood is top among a handful of metro area neighborhoods that face issues such as low-income, high unemployment, low voter registration, higher teen pregnancy and gang violence.

“For too many children in our community, their zip code determines their opportunity to succeed in life,” explains Megan Lewis, Friends’ executive director. “Sixty percent of the youth in our programs come from homes where at least one parent did not complete high school and 50 percent have a parent who struggles with substance abuse. While we have already been making an investment in East County – more than tripling our presence since 2010 – this facility will continue that momentum and allow mentors to spend more high-quality time with the young people in our programs.”

The new facility will provide a broad scope of opportunities for program youth, including a teaching kitchen where children can learn the essentials of healthy cooking, a full-size gymnasium that will promote the value of physical activity and computer and video rooms – featuring a green screen – to encourage the young people to explore and create in a digital environment.

The new facility will provide a broad scope of opportunities for program youth, including a teaching kitchen where children can learn the essentials of healthy cooking, a full-size gymnasium that will promote the value of physical activity and computer and video rooms – featuring a green screen – to encourage the young people to explore and create in a digital environment.

All these features, combined with the direct one-on-one relationships between the mentors and youth, will allow Friends of the Children to continue to have a positive impact whose outcomes include: 83 percent of its youth graduate from high school, 93 percent avoid the justice system and 98 percent avoid early pregnancy.

From Friends of the Children:

Friends of the Children–Portland is the founding chapter of a nationwide organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through salaried, professional mentoring. Founded in Portland in 1993, it selects the area’s highest risk children and commits to working with those children from kindergarten through graduation. Currently, Friends–Portland serves 425 youth in 120 schools across Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties in Oregon, and Clark County in Washington.

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