AmeriCorps Week: Transforming Youth in Washington County, OR

This AmeriCorps Week we’re highlighting JV AmeriCorps members across the Northwest.  JV AmeriCorps member Kim Utschig serves with youth experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in Washington County, OR. 

Washington County, Oregon is an odd place. Home of Intel and Nike headquarters, Portland suburbs, and pristine farmland, the demographic of Washington County is diverse and the need is dynamic.  Home to farm worker families, folks couch surfing, and the product of Portland’s poverty purge, there are many marginalized people in need of services in Washington County. However, there is only one non-profit provider of drop-in centers and street outreach for young people experiencing homelessness and instability, and that is HomePlate Youth Services. That is where I join the narrative.

In response to consistent feedback from youth who wanted additional ways to engage in the HomePlate community, 14-15_Hillsboro_HomePlate_KimUtschig_dreams1HomePlate seized the opportunity to bring on a full time Programming Coordinator. As a part of HomePlate’s team, it is my role to honor each youth that comes into our space by offering servant hospitality, open and honest communication, respect for the place they are on life’s journey, and compassion for the burdens they carry. In my role as Programming Coordinator, I get to engage in this mission through programming efforts are that are creative and fun, while also impactful and transferable to the lives of the youth I serve.

I encourage you all to think for a minute, about the some of the most transformative14-15_Hillsboro_HomePlate_KimUtschig_CoastTrip_4_2014 moments in your life.  Was it on a basketball court? An annual trip with your family? Creating an artistic masterpiece? Recreational opportunities can be transformative, but are often a luxury unattainable for so many youth at HomePlate.

14-15_Hillsboro_HomePlate_KimUtschig_ClimbingatPRG_9_2015Thus far, programming has looked many different ways. Whether it is watching the youth challenging each other to scale the wall at the Portland Rock Gym, making a juice carton wallet at weekly Wednesday crafts, or building community around climbing the giant sand dunes along 14-15_Hillsboro_HomePlate_KimUtschig_dreams2the Oregon coast, our programming encourages youth to find a sense of belonging amongst our HomePlate community and take ownership of their gifts and abilities.

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