County’s youth initiative celebrates job opportunities, expanded lunch program in Wood Village

July 23, 2015

Elvia Angel-Silva (left) and Emily Villarreal-Herrera dedicated the peace pole in English and Spanish

Young people in Multnomah County’s STRYVE program helped the City of Wood Village celebrate its Annual Night Out on July 17 with the dedication of a peace pole. The pole, installed outside Wood Village Baptist Church, was inscribed with eight different languages and dedicated in both English and Spanish.

STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) is a national program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce youth violence. Housed locally in the Multnomah County Health Department’s Community Capacitation Center, the program focuses on youth engagement, employment and building community cohesion in communities most affected by violence.

For the first time in Wood Village, Multnomah County staff were able to arrange for job positions in East County, giving young people the chance to work with nonprofit partners, community-based organizations and local businesses.

“What we want to be able to do this summer is create employment for youth who live in East County. We also want their jobs to be located in East County to reduce transportation barriers,” says Rebecca Stavenjord, former STRYVE coordinator and current East County community liaison for Multnomah County. “If you know your community and you have a job in your community, there is a greater sense of connectivity.”

This summer, more than 60 SummerWorks youth are employed around East County, a significant increase in the program’s push for employment.

STRYVE's Wood Village site played a key role in the organization of Friday's event
STRYVE's Wood Village site played a key role in the organization of Friday's event

Friday’s event took place at Wood Village Baptist Church, the location of the summer lunch program where many SummerWorks youth are employed. In previous years, the program was only able to serve people under the age of 18 because of United States Department of Agriculture rules. This year, the City of Wood Village contributed $3,000 in order to serve entire families.

Today, the program reaches 30 to 50 families daily.

“There’s really big families and there’s not a lot to do, cause there’s not a lot of programs or parks over here. They have a place here,” says Emily Villarreal-Herrera, 17, one of the members of STRYVE’s Wood Village site. She’s been working with STRYVE, primarily helping with the summer lunches.

With a parade kicking off Friday’s event, live music plus games and activities for the children, nearly 2,000 attended and the night was deemed a success.

“It’s one of the traditions in this community and it’s an opportunity to really talk about the STRYVE initiative. This is (the youth’s) community and what they get to do is they get to be seen in a light that’s positive. They get to be seen as leaders in their community,” says Pam Hiller, facilitator for STRYVE’s Wood Village site.