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Program teaching Portland students how to give back to their community celebrates 25 years

More than 900 high school students in the Portland metro participated in the CommuniCare program this past year, raising money for local organizations.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A unique way for local high school students to learn about money and give back to the community is celebrating 25 years of creating grants for non profits throughout the Portland area. 

More than 900 high school students were part of CommuniCare this past year. The program is active in 27 Portland area high schools with a goal of teaching young people how to create change. Students start the year by picking a community issue and then are challenged to raise money to create grants for local organizations through events like bake sales and car washes. Students then go through the process of awarding the grants— they research Oregon nonprofits, evaluate proposals and meet with representatives of those organizations to decide which will receive the funds. 

The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE foundation matches the money they raise 10 to 1, up until $15,000. 

The program looked different this year because of the pandemic. Students were not expected to come up with the funds. Instead, the money came directly from the Schnitzer foundation. 

The theme students chose to focus on this year was mental health because of the challenges with isolation people dealt with during the pandemic. 

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Around 70 non-profits received some of the more than half a million dollars. Those organizations include Blanchet House, Lift Urban Portland, The American Red Cross and Latino Network. 

Emily Housely, a student at St. Mary's Academy in downtown Portland, has participated in the CommuniCare program for two years.

"My favorite part by far of this process is the interview process," Housely said. "When you speak with a representative from all of these organizations, talking about how much of a difference a $100 care package makes to a family."

Housely said she feels like she's made a big difference in the community and she's glad she was able to participate. 

To find out more about the program, go to the CommuniCare website.

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