My Spring 2014 Inside-Out class managed another first – my students were able to plan and host a Family Field Day for youth in the Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility on Saturday. As a service-learning project for our shared college class, students from Hillcrest and Oregon State University planned a day where youth and their families could be outside, play games together, and enjoy more freedom of movement than normal visits in the facility allow.
Family members were invited to either a morning session or an afternoon session, and students from the class and volunteers from OSU manned stations with the following activities: face painting; cookie decorating and eating; potato sack races; water balloon tosses; basketball; and soccer. A lot of little kids – the children, siblings, or nieces and nephews of the young men of Hillcrest – were able to attend the event, and they seemed to have a great time playing and running around the facility’s front greens.
Students from the Inside-Out class also hosted a fundraiser during our Family Field Day, selling lunches of BBQ cheeseburgers, potato or macaroni salad, potato chips, and pink lemonade for $5 per person. The students decided that the funds raised would be equally split between a Hillcrest College Scholarship Fund and a donation to a community group that works with at-risk youth in Portland, Oregon. This fits perfectly with our class discussions on prevention and rehabilitation, and our guests seemed happy to support the cause. I haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but I think the BBQ fundraiser (also held during regular visiting hours on Sunday) raised in the neighborhood of $1000. Amazing.
A related service-learning project that my students are continuing to work on is to create a child-friendly space for families visiting at Hillcrest. The administrators have given us a fairly large room to work with, and my students are helping to clean it out, paint it (including the use of chalkboard paint so kids can draw on the walls), decorate it, and furnish it with toys so that kids visiting the young men of Hillcrest have a place to be active and play together. We are planning a grand opening of the kids’ room on Father’s Day. Stay tuned – I’ll try to post photos!
Obviously to make any and all of this possible, we have had – and continue to have – tremendous support from the administrators and staff at Hillcrest and from the larger Oregon Youth Authority. The Hillcrest administrators are pretty wonderful in letting my students and I pursue our ideas and projects. And, to their great credit, my students came with positive attitudes and enthusiasm all quarter long, and we accomplished a great deal in a 10-week class.
I’m sad to see this class ending, but I know our efforts have made a lasting impact at Hillcrest and on each of us who had the privilege of participating in this unique and fun experience.