Lincoln High School is nestled in the middle of downtown Portland – the “Ritziest” part of the State. Between the waterfront and the Pearl District, the demographic that attends the school come from affluent families. While waiting for the bus one afternoon, a homeless couple were mumbling with one another that they should ask the rows of kids for money because they would undoubtedly be able to unload a crisp 20 “because they are Lincoln kids.” So has been the stigma for a long time: Cardinals are rich. The Lincoln High School Cardinals have the highest test scores, graduation rates and attendance out of all Portland Public Schools. Many people point to the affluence of the students as a reason behind this. Even still, this notion that Cards are wealthy is accentuated by the fact that there are few volunteer programs lead by students with the mission of helping out the greater good of Portland.
This idea that students could be giving back more than they are has lead me to create a nonprofit called Cards Cook. For too long our school has had a culinary arts program that serves the purpose of feeding only those in the Lincoln Community. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for dipping a fork into lemon chiffon cake for an afternoon snack. But c’mon. Couldn’t there be a better use of student resources that can help out the greater community of Portland?
With Cards Cook, students from Lincoln’s culinary classes prepare foods to be served at Portland Rescue mission’s facilities. The value that programs like this creates are three fold.
First, it changes the relationship and opinion of the school. Lincoln students have been seen as stuck up and privileged. Although they may not be wrong, if we were to have more programs that help out the underprivileged, this notion would fade away. The word pretentious comes not from the privileges granted but from what those with privileges decide to do with their fortune.
Second, it teaches students about the real world. The day after the presidential election, my school – faculty and students – were in tears about the outcome. My point is our school is a cocoon that rejects much of real world reality. Same goes for the homeless. Rarely are students interacting with the homeless community. In fact, when they talk to us on the street or ask for money we walk faster and keep our heads down. Between being shielded from this environment and running away from it, there is a great amount of distance between us and different communities such as the homeless. This program breaks down that barrier and shows kids otherworldly environment.
Third, it helps the homeless. When Hey Hank did a homeless special, we went over how many people are homeless because they messed up in their youth. Many of the issues that occur with mental health or psychological issues can be traced back to what a patient did in their early years. So for the Portland homeless community to be surrounded by youth help or participation, wisdom can be spread across generations. This foreboding sense of trouble emphasizes the importance of the choices that are made during student’s youth. This kind of mission can be the tipping point that slows the seemingly unstoppable growth of homeless in Portland.
Cards Cook is a bi-monthly program that will most likely begin next month.