Our Shared Values and Vision in Actionon November 30th, 2016 at 11:47 am
by Dani Bernstein and Katie Carter
Since our beginning, both Pride Foundation and Equity Foundation have believed that we can more quickly and effectively create change by working together. Two years ago, we put that belief into action to support Oregon’s students and along the way learned what is possible when we combine the power of both foundations.
The original idea for our collaboration was spurred by two inspiring community leaders, Giovanni MacKenzie and Jose Madrid. They started an organization called Queer Intersections to focus on the needs of queer people who face additional marginalization because of other identities such as their race, age, immigration status, or ability. Jose had received a scholarship from Pride Foundation to continue his education so he could become a nurse. He saw how valuable it was to his ability to pursue his dreams, and wanted other students like him to have the same opportunity.
Yet he knew that applying for scholarships can be intimidating, especially when you are required to share personal and often sensitive details about your life. So he invited Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation to create a collaborative workshop and tour queer youth spaces in the Portland area to give young people the tools and confidence they need to apply for funding for their education.
We went to the first workshop with our own presentations, and realized we would be better off with a combined presentation that reflected both foundations. We were doing the same thing with the same goals in mind. When we looked at the questions we asked on our scholarship applications, we saw similar themes. So, we unified our presentations and developed a short writing exercise that would allow students to practice writing about those themes —ultimately making it easier for them to apply for scholarships from both foundations.
It was amazing to see how students transformed through our workshops. You could see on their faces the moment of realization that they have stories to tell, that they’ve done things in their lives to overcome difficulties, and that they have bold ambitions for what they want to accomplish. It is often rare for young people to feel encouraged to reflect on their lives and share their stories, and our workshops gave them a chance to cultivate a sense of confidence as young queer people who deserve an investment in their education.
More than the workshops though, we were able to support a new program of Queer Intersections, and offer the organization guidance about convening, marketing, and training. As a result, they were able to bring more students to the events and we were able to equip those students with the skills and tools they needed to apply for scholarships — from us as well as from other organizations and foundations. We toured queer youth spaces across the Portland area and even took our presentation to groups such as the Oregon Students of Color Conference and the Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance to reach even more young people across the state.
We were inspired during our workshops for another reason. We were able to clearly align the similar missions, work, and ambitions of both Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation, and do so in a way that was meaningful and impactful for students across Oregon. For years, we had received questions about the reasons for having two similar scholarship programs and how applicants should change their answers for each application. For the first time, we were able to acknowledge our similarities and more clearly explain that while we were two distinct foundations, we cared about the same things.
Out of these workshops grew a sense of collaboration between Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation. Now, as a unified philanthropic effort, we are able to streamline the process for Oregon students and organizations who apply for funding. By joining together, we will also be better able to connect our communities, spark new efforts, and amplify the ideas that will allow all of us to live safely, openly, and genuinely.
In the coming months, we will offer opportunities to weave together the Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation communities. We hope you will join us as we build on our shared values to learn from each other and create a bolder, more unified movement for equality in Oregon.
Dani Bernstein is Acting Executive Director of Equity Foundation and Katie Carter is Director of Strategic Partnerships of Pride Foundation.