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PNW nonprofit educates youth to address tech, supply chain needs

iUrban Teen offers educational programs spanning the country to youth. The goal is to boost access to industries often beyond reach to some kids.

PORTLAND, Ore — A Pacific Northwest-based nonprofit is expanding learning opportunities for youth to help address growing labor and supply chain challenges.

Deena Pierott founded iUrban Teen about a decade ago. Her goal was to uplift minority and low-opportunity youth through vocational education and exposure. 

"I've seen the disparities in education in our youth," Pierott said. "We want to make them aware of what these opportunities are, the infinite possibilities."

Programs throughout the summer and fall include a wide range of classes and outings, all free to young people. They include writing, computer coding, engineering, manufacturing and natural sciences.

"We need opportunities like this," said Marissa Spires, a paid intern with iUrban Teen who has participated in student activities for about seven years. "For scholarships, it's been useful in so many ways ... improved my skills a lot."

iUrban Teen recently became the nonprofit of choice for former Seattle Seahawks player Bobby Wagner, who has helped fund youth programs.

As the nonprofit expands its reach, Pierott hopes more people will volunteer.

"We've worked with over 12,000 youth since we started," she said. "And we have about an 86% retention rate. Families stay with us year after year ... and that's saying something."

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Pierott said iUrban Teen often maintains connection with youth when they move on to college and career training.

Spires is headed to college to focus on writing and psychology, but is also helping out with initiatives to boost iUrban Teen, such as its upcoming Give More 24 fundraiser.

"It's meaningful to come back and make sure students like me, and those not like me, can value these opportunities like I have," Spires said.

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