SEI—forming deep connections through culturally responsive support-black and white group photo of local kids in PDX

Self Enhancement Inc.—forming deep connections through culturally responsive support

In 2021, just 76% of African American students in Oregon graduated high school. Changing demographics and neighborhood gentrification in our communities are significant challenges to ensuring these students have the resources to succeed. Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) was founded in 1981 to address these challenges, and what started as a one-week basketball camp has grown to become so much more. Today, 98% of the students who participate in their programming graduate from high school and 85% enroll in post-secondary education.

SEI is a comprehensive resource dedicated to guiding underserved youth in North and Northeast Portland and helping them realize their full potential. Working with schools, families and partner community organizations, SEI provides these young people support, guidance, and opportunities to achieve personal and academic success. Through this work, SEI brings hope to individuals and strengthens the larger community.

SEI helps local youth achieve transformative change.

When Rosalyn (name changed for privacy) came to SEI, she was in the sixth grade and struggled in math and science. Although she modeled good behavior in school, her challenges with these subjects continued into high school—that’s when she began partnering with an SEI coordinator to create an Individual Success Plan (ISP). In-school service coordinators use ISPs to build relationships with students and help them meet personal, social, academic and career goals.

For Rosalyn, this ongoing support was uplifting and empowering. Outlining and focusing on goals led to her applying for and receiving a scholarship to the University of Oregon. Pursuing a college degree without the financial burden is life-altering for youths like Rosalyn. She always had the potential, and receiving help from an SEI coordinator and her family helped her overcome barriers, set goals and achieve them.

Rosalyn will now graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She plans to continue her education and eventually open her own counseling office. She hopes to help inner-city youth and families, similar to how SEI helped her.

Rosalyn’s story is one example of how SEI can impact individuals and lift communities—consider reading more success stories from SEI.

A decades-long history and a growing community impact.

SEI’s strength is grounded in its wide variety of educational and social services. With the help of active volunteers and a robust fundraising program, SEI strives to address the complex needs of the community and help families overcome barriers.

The organization’s Director of Development, Anthony Deloney, joined SEI in 1996 as a youth service coordinator before becoming a program manager and later a youth services director. However, his first experience with the program was as a student. Like Rosalyn, working with SEI gave him a deeper understanding of the difference support can make for people.

“In the ’90s, we were serving a thousand students every year. Now, we serve 17,000 annually,” Deloney said, “I have had the opportunity to see lives change and to see leaders rise in the community. I have seen children grow into adults, then have their kids join our program. I have seen countless students who make positive contributions as citizens and leaders in STEM, professional trades, sports, entertainment, the nonprofit sector, government, etc. Having the opportunity to see and experience positive changes in individuals, families, and communities over the decades is what keeps me motivated and driven to keep going each day.”

SEI is dedicated to continually expanding learning opportunities and helping as many children as possible learn that life is full of opportunity. The record of achievement over SEI’s 40-year history is testimony to the effectiveness of the programs.

What is SEI’s path to success?

As a comprehensive, one-stop resource for youth and families, SEI is Portland’s leading multi-service organization. It provides a broad array of education and social services to thousands of youth, families and adults. The “one-stop” programming that SEI provides includes:

  • In-school program: Participating students pair with an in-school service coordinator tasked with providing case management on a 24/7 basis. Attendance, academic achievement and behavior tracking are all instrumental in identifying the help each student needs. SEI currently works with students in Portland Public Schools and the Parkrose, Reynolds and David Douglas School Districts.
  • Summer enrichment program: Five weeks of full-day summer enrichment programs emphasize academic enrichment, recreational activities, the arts, community exposure, and continuing preparation for post-secondary education and career development.
  • Post-high school program: This program offers a continuum of support to students as they graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives. Focusing on developing employment and career goals, it offers workshops in financial literacy and essential life skills, emphasizing further training or specific higher education opportunities. SEI also provides scholarships and college transition support after high school.
  • SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program: This program includes a network of full-service neighborhood hubs with a zone of influence concentrated in 16 schools across the area through contracts with Multnomah County and the City of Portland. The hubs offer support to students and families for education, enrichment and recreation. Skills development and community involvement are critical factors to the success of these centers.

The organization’s Community and Family Programs office provides various trauma-informed services, including long-term case management for families, home visits, family stability programs covering housing and economic empowerment, and energy assistance. Additionally, SEI counselors can assist with domestic and sexual violence through intervention or advocacy, early childhood and parenting groups and classes, child welfare advocacy, resource referrals, and other forms of wraparound support.

How can people support SEI?

Due to neighborhood expansion and gentrification, SEI leaders face a growing concern over how best to deliver their services to the students and families who need help the most. The Center for Self Enhancement is currently in the heart of Northeast Portland. However, many people most in need of help live in outer East Portland. While SEI provides buses to bring in students from outlying neighborhoods, the cost of transportation is still a serious challenge for the organization.

OnPoint Community Credit Union is a proud supporter of SEI’s ongoing efforts. In 2021, OnPoint made a $25,000 donation to SEI and will be committing another $25,000 to the nonprofit in 2022. We encourage our members to support SEI by making a one-time or recurring donation. Donations help ensure its programs will remain accessible to the underserved in our community.

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