Youth Mentoring Program

Youth Mentoring Program

Youth Mentoring Program

224 Northwest 13th Avenue
Suite 304
Portland, OR 97209
Phone: 503.937.3061
Fax: 503.937.3085

Focus: Design, Media Arts, Music, Visual Arts, Writing

Annual Number Participating: 400

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $1,778,050

Partners: Open Meadow/Step Up; Oregon College of Art and Craft; Portland and Central Oregon Middle Schools; Portland Art Museum; Self Enhancement, Inc.; The Museum at Warm Springs

Funders: Bill Furman, The Greenbrier Companies, Inc.; Meyer Memorial Trust; National Endowment for the Arts; Oregon Arts Commission/Oregon Cultural Trust; The Ford Family Foundation; The Oregon Community Foundation; Wieden+Kennedy

“Wow! Where am I?” was Aasha Benton’s first thought when the 10-year-old girl stepped off the bus from Portland and found herself at Camp Caldera: a 116-acre camp with a soaring redwood arts center, on the shores of Blue Lake, surrounded by Oregon’s forested Cascade Range. Camp Caldera is a world away from the struggling communities where many of its campers live and from the burdens that many of them shoulder. But like the caldera at the camp’s center—a crater-shaped basin formed by the bubbling ferment of volcanic action—the camp seeks to provide transformative experiences for young people through a mix of deeply engaged mentoring and intensive exposure to the arts and the environment.

While the week-long summer camp is a highlight for many participants, it’s just one aspect of a year-round, long-term Youth Mentoring Program. Caldera, a Portland-based nonprofit, developed this program for middle and high school students from underserved schools in Portland and Central Oregon. Believing that the organization can have its greatest impact through sustained involvement, Caldera begins to work with students when they are in the sixth grade, stays with them through high school, and even supports their pursuits after high school.

During the school year, Caldera offers weekly, progressive after-school art experiences to middle schoolers and weekend art- and career-focused workshops to high school students. Often drawing from Caldera’s professional Artists-In-Residence program, outstanding artist-mentors guide students as they explore photography, film, and design, as well as poetry, hip-hop, and African drumming.

The multiple disciplines offer a “really broad palette” to help students “find out who they are, what they want to express, and how they can act as change agents in their own lives,” explains Executive Director Tricia Snell. Caldera’s projects also incorporate environmental themes—such as land, water, or wildlife—and a geographic focus to connect students to the wider world and awaken a sense of responsibility for their own and the planet’s future, Snell adds.

Through this innovative approach, participants build strong relationships with adults and peers alike, set new goals, and gain the confidence to achieve them. And, the results are noteworthy: In 2014, all of the program’s 8th graders advanced to 9th grade, and nearly 90 percent of its 12th graders graduated from high school.

Caldera kidnapped my “street smarts” and, in return, gave me an idea—an idea of how to do things differently. For me, “different” is success; “different” is being the real me, without a mask; “different” is trying new things.

Tristan Irving former participant, Youth Mentoring Program