DCPSS Executive Director Gwen Soderberg-Chase (left) chats with guests at the Partner Celebration Dinner on Oct. 29 at the Danny Lang center at UCC.

Champions of success

Event celebrates supporters of Bright Futures Umpqua, STEAM

There were STEAM-related tools and toys to tinker with, tasty food and presentations. But the highlight of the first-ever Partner Celebration Dinner was the chance to recognize and honor the dozens of champions who are working in Douglas County to ensure local students are finding pathways to bright futures.

Douglas County Partners for Student Success invited educators, industry leaders and representatives from community organizations to the Oct. 29 event at the Danny Lang Teaching, Learning & Event Center at Umpqua Community College to celebrate the work they are doing for students.

DCPSS Executive Director Gwen Soderberg-Chase told the crowd that funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust allowed the partnership to expand its work in the community to help youth develop plans for life after high school in ways that also support local employer needs.

“The intent of that grant was to do exactly what’s represented here in this room, and that is to work to bring partners together to figure out what kind of systems need to be in place here in Douglas County that would actually put kids in a position to start getting a clear menu of what their future could look like,” Soderberg-Chase told the crowd. “And then to give them the experiences that they need in order to actually get those hands-on, minds-on opportunities and truly leave high school with a plan for their future.”

DCPSS recognized dozens of individuals and organizations as either STEAM Champions or Bright Futures Umpqua Champions. STEAM champions have advocated for science, technology, engineering, artful innovation and math experiences for local youth. Champions of Bright Futures Umpqua, an initiative of DCPSS, have worked to offer career-connected learning opportunities throughout the community.

All of the champions were recognized because they support the goal of DCPSS, Bright Futures Umpqua and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, which is to ensure all students are prepared for and exposed to the careers of the 21st century and beyond. Together, these partners are building pathways that allow students to discover their passion and create a plan, whether that plan includes post-secondary education or direct entry into one of many high-wage, high-demand fields such as the trades and manufacturing.

“We still have a long ways to go,” Soderberg-Chase said. “But we’ve got a good foundation that’s being built right now.”

At the end of the night, emcee Brian Prawitz asked the crowd for feedback on how they can continue or begin new work to help support students.

“It really comes down to partnerships, it comes down to people that understand the vision, who believe in the mission that we’ve been talking about tonight and want to be the next success story that we talk about here in Douglas County,” Prawitz said. “… We are just ready to launch forward and continue succeeding for our kids in Douglas County, because the future is indeed very bright.”

Are you interested in becoming a Bright Futures Umpqua or STEAM champion? We’d love to connect with you. To get started, contact Gwen Soderberg-Chase at 541-784-8622 or Gwen.Soderberg-Chase@umpqua.edu.

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