Expresiones is Hacienda's housing-based after-school program for residents in grades kindergarten through eighth. Youth have the option to attend programming every day after school and five days a week during the critical summer months. Programming is designed to increase family participation, school attendance, reports of a positive experience in school, and high school graduation. In addition, the program focuses on reducing youth risk factors such as gang involvement, dropping out of school, and drug and alcohol abuse. Expresiones programming is offered every day after school and five days a week at four of our housing-based community centers in Northeast Portland and a fifth site in Molalla, Oregon.
Expresiones provides holistic support to at-risk youth through the following four pillars for youth success:
- Academic support: Staying enrolled in and graduating from school is a key strategy of success for Hacienda youth. Latino youth in Portland have an alarming 50% high school graduation rate and the majority of Expresiones youth are at least one year behind in reading, writing, math or English when they enter the program. During the academic year,Expresiones is essentially a "homework club" where youth receive one-on-one homework help, as well as accountability and positive peer culture. Computer labs are also available for completing assignments. Through partnerships, such as Concordia University, college students volunteer as tutors and role models for educational attainment. As part of the program, youth are also provided a healthy after-school snack during the school year and a nutritious lunch during summer months.
- Personal enrichment: Culturally-specific, fun and educational activities are incorporated into the curriculum throughout the year to provide constructive and enriching ways for youth to spend their free time, especially during the critical summer months when youth are most likely to engage in risky behavior. Activities include gardening, dance lessons, rock climbing, nature hikes, snowboarding and zoo and museum trips. These activities expose youth to ideas, people and experiences they would not normally have access to due to geographic, cultural and/or economic isolation.
- Service learning: Youth participate in service-learning projects throughout the year to foster a value for community service, create leadership development and promote positive character-building.
- Parent involvement: Involving parents in al aspects of the program is a key strategy toward successful youth outcomes. Our target population requires special effort to generate parent involvement due to language, cultural and educational barriers. Program Coordinators engage parents in student activities as volunteer guest teachers or chaperones and provide translation support. In addition, we host general meetings and workshops aimed to support the education and skill-building needs of parents, as well as to keep parents informed of their children's academic needs and school expectations.
Expresiones serves 300 predominantly Latino and Somali youth and their families:
- The vast majority are residents of Hacienda’s affordable housing units;
- They come from families earning less – usually far less – than 60% of Portland Area Median Income;
- 97 percent are first or second generation immigrants (57% Hispanic, 40% Somali Refugees); and
- Many enter the program below grade level in reading, writing, math and science.