OPAL Partners with Oregon Walks and Community Cycling Center

Picture of YEJA members and Jen Phung in OPAL T-shirts. The group is in a restaurant.OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Community Cycling Center, and Oregon Walks are pleased to announce the receipt of a joint Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) grant award. The Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, OPAL’s youth organizing membership body, has received the two-year investment to enhance their advocacy for a safer, healthier environment. KPCF funds projects that address health where it begins, in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces – long before we ever see a doctor. Each project selected for a KPCF grant seeks to create the conditions needed for people to live healthy, secure and satisfying lives – with a focus on efforts that are inclusive, collaborative and led by the people most affected.

Through multi-level advocacy, this partnership will engage with youth leaders to make school more accessible statewide, and catalyze the broader youth movement, elevating impacted youth voices in policy conversations. Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA) youth assume direct control over campaigns for a better lived environment, and through this partnership will expand their leadership in bike and pedestrian advocacy.

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon facilitates YEJA, a program of youth leadership development. More than 50 youth, primarily youth of color, or from low-income families living in East Portland, have participated in YEJA in the last year. YEJA’s youth leaders conduct an ongoing campaign demanding improved transportation access to school. Youth gave YEJA its name, branded their campaign to expand free transit access to two East Portland school districts “YouthPass to the Future,” and have held rallies, provided testimony, published research, and met with school and elected officials. Studies show that expanding mass transit access and flexibility is the single most effective method of improving school attendance, a key metric in forecasting graduation rates.

“We’re committed to strengthening the role that impacted people play in decision-making that affects them,” said OPAL Executive Director Huy Ong. “Kaiser Permanente Community Fund is a vital partner to making this happen. OPAL is pleased to receive this investment in our amazing youth leaders.”

Mass transportation isn’t always an option in East Portland, which is grossly under-served by the regional transportation system. In the previous year of fact-finding and capacity building, youth have raised concerns about the safety of simply getting to bus stops due to poorly-maintained or non-existent sidewalks, the poor condition of roads where sidewalks are absent, and the lack of suitable crosswalks, particularly on busy streets such as the major transportation corridors which cross-cut many neighborhoods in East Portland.

In staying true to our values of listening to community and responding with resources and organizing capacity, we’ve formed a partnership to address these concerns. OPAL brought key advocates for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and safety into the movement-building space to design an integrated program of tri-modal advocacy.

“Partnering with youth leaders in East Portland to identify issues and advocate for a transportation system that works for them is an exciting development in how we do walking advocacy,” shared Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director of Oregon Walks. “We are committed to making active transportation advocacy more inclusive and representative of those most affected by a lack of safe and accessible streets.”

YEJA leader Mindy holds a sign featuring a sad person holding a sign. The person's sign reads "I can't afford a $200 fine."OPAL’s organizing develops the youths’ leadership, advocacy, public speaking, campaign planning, and other skills, through workshops on youth-identified topics. Oregon Walks will facilitate youth engagement in pedestrian safety, advocacy around pedestrian infrastructure, and will lead community mapping exercises around priority high schools to identify barriers to safe routes to school, lifting up those barriers as advocacy opportunities. Community Cycling Center provides youth the opportunity to earn or long-term loan a bike, and will facilitate youth engagement around bicycle safety, infrastructure, advocacy and opportunities to engage decision-makers to reduce barriers.

“The Community Cycling Center is excited to partner with OPAL and Oregon Walks on this important work to develop access to opportunities,” noted Jonnie Ling, Director of Operations at the Community Cycling Center. “We hope to use our understanding and experience with the community-led group Andando en Bicicletas en Cully to inform how we engage with the youth-led project. Access to bicycling and its benefits is an important option in this tri-modal project.

To learn more about YEJA, click here. To learn more about the Community Cycling Center click here. To learn more about Oregon Walks click here.

About KPCF

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation is a twelve-year, sunset fund with a mission to improve the health of communities throughout the Kaiser Permanente Northwest region.

The Fund specifically focuses on addressing the “upstream” factors that create or inhibit community health, also known as the social determinants of health. The fund, ending in 2020, will invest $32 million total in our communities.

More information about KPCF, and the projects funded this year, can be found here.


About Northwest Health Foundation

The mission of Northwest Health Foundation is to advance, support and promote the health of the people in Oregon and Southwest Washington. By joining with communities that face the biggest barriers to health, we can create strategies that improve the lives of everyone. More information can be found at www.northwesthealth.org.

Posted in Celebrations, Coalition Building, East Portland, Policy Advocacy, Transit Justice, YEJA.