PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Portland non-profit is working to make sure that students who may not have the same opportunities as others get a fair shot.
Greater Than starts with elementary school students and follows them throughout their educational years.
“We center racial equity because the educational gap is most profoundly and disturbingly falling around racial lines,” Greater Than President and CEO, Mark Langseth said.
Langseth says the non-profit got off the ground in 1990 with the I Have a Dream Program and focused on following third graders at Rigler Elementary.
One of those students was Cheyanna Chambers, who is now attending Portland State University.
“Right now, I’m a first-generation college student. I was the oldest of four siblings going into high school doing the whole college process. I had two parents who were not familiar with the entire process,” Chambers explained.
In 2010, the non-profit switched to a whole school model, taking on Alder Elementary — providing emotional support and more.
“We have a huge program to provide housing supports, so families have housing stability. And then, during the pandemic, we spent a lot of time delivering on basic needs because families have told us, ‘Look, we’re worried about food,’” Langseth said.
In 2018, the non-profit changed its name to Greater Than and recently expanded to Hillsboro — following students at Lincoln Street Elementary through their educational careers.
Hillsboro School District Superintendent Mike Scott said the program helps “students that are living in poverty, students whose parents haven’t had the same opportunities to participate in education to the same degree as other parents, students of color.”
Greater Than relies on foundations and corporations to staff their growing non-profit. Pacific Power has given them over $70,000 since 1990.
“It’s really important for us in general that we’re impacting the community we serve,” Pacific Power spokesperson Brandon Zero said.
Greater Than is making an impact, with a 90% high school completion rate and in some cases, three-quarters of the students going on to some form of higher education.
Chambers added “It definitely takes a village. And so, for a lot of us, students in my classes, we all had varying circumstances, various backgrounds and situations we were dealing with.”