‘H’ is for Hope and Help

DCPSS assists children, parents, educators reach goals, build community vitality together

by Gwen Soderberg-Chase

When it comes to kids, most of us have high, but simple hopes: We want them to be happy and healthy in all stages and phases of life. We want them to succeed in all their endeavors.

What it takes to make those hopes reality is not simple. Living a healthy lifestyle, while sometimes difficult to achieve, has at least some tangible and visible measurements.

But how do we help our children find their sense of purpose and happiness? And who’s defining success? We adults or the kids?

I am the executive director for Douglas County Partners for Student Success, a group of community leaders who want to help bring clarity and access to the many different ways all children can seize success and happiness for their own lives. We believe that’s attainable from cradle to career and that each individual student’s success will lead to our county’s greater vitality.

Our group formed out of the vision and support of five community leaders and The Oregon Community Foundation in 2012. Individuals from all sectors – education, business, civic government, health care, workforce training, youth outreach programs and philanthropies were invited to join the conversation.

The conversation began at the Greater Douglas United Way with all these community leaders looking at some troubling statistics in our county: Of 100 students in Douglas County, 67 will graduate high school. Of those, only 39 will begin college and fewer than 20 will end up with a degree or community college credential.

Dovetailing with those subpar student statistics is a reality that employers live daily: Jobs in their agencies remain open or go to people living outside our county. That’s because Douglas County applicants do not have the necessary credentials to fill mid-level, well-paying positions like electrician, welder, firefighter. The list goes on.

That means two things for our students growing up in our county: 1) Students with employable skills are leaving the county for work or not returning after college or training, and 2) The kids who do stay are not getting in touch with opportunities during or after high school that would allow them to build those skills.

Now to say that our community isn’t doing enough for children would be blasphemy. Our county has a wealth of enthusiastic educators, youth leaders and businesses that work hard every day to offer children in their spheres an edge, tools, and goals.

And that’s where we believe the challenge lies. We’re all working within our own spheres of influence – either geographical or topic specific – and serve our children at various points in their lives. Our current youth programs are not always organized around a similar set of data or a shared commitment to work together to define the goals, actions, outcomes and shared accountability.

DCPSS is committed to helping our communities move to collective action through a common agenda, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and shared measurements of success.

In plain talk, that means we want to harness the energy and wealth of resources already at work in our communities and deliver those messages of “what to do” and “where to go” for opportunities to more children, more parents and all adults who have the same goals.

Our dream is no less lofty than changing the hearts and minds of our entire county, moving the conversation away from “Our kids can’t do A…” or “We don’t have enough B….” to “You want to do X? Get to Y? And earn Z? Here are some ways to get there.”

Let’s get started.

DCPSS’s goals are that each child:

  • Is healthy and ready for kindergarten.
  • Has supports in and out of school to be successful.
  • Leaves high school ready for post-secondary education and/or career.
  • Completes a post-secondary degree, career credential or training needed for personal well-being.

DCPSS’s current projects include:

Everyone is encouraged to visit our website and view the information we’ve gathered so far, and we’re constantly adding more. People who wish to join us as partners are heartily invited.

Website: www.dcpss.org

Contact: Gwen Soderberg-Chase, 541-440-7848, Gwen.Soderberg-Chase@umpqua.edu .


Gwen Soderberg-Chase is the Project Coordinator for the Douglas County Partners for Student Success. She grew up in Douglas County and graduated from South Umpqua High School. She attended the University of Oregon for post-secondary education. She returned to Douglas County and worked as a teacher and Director of Educational Services for the Roseburg Public Schools until 2011 and has worked at UCC and in the nonprofit sector since. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club of the Umpqua Valley, Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center and SMART.