A Model Community Learning Center

By Katie Riley


Amazing!  That was my reaction to visiting the Forest Grove Community Learning Center (CLC).  And I kept repeating it.  It was also jealousy—why can’t every student in Washington County have the opportunity to participate in such a center?  


Let’s begin with the setting.   500 fifth and sixth grade students served by two schools (Tom McCall Upper Elementary and Echo Shaw) congregate after class in the cafeteria at 2:15-2:30 p.m. for a snack prepared by district food service workers.  That is 64% of the 780 students in those grades at the schools.  Backpacks neatly line the hallways in preparation for their next activity. Students spend time chatting with friends while eating healthy foods. Between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. they have a chance to just hang out or go into the gym.  This activity – or lack of activity – is based on student responses to questionnaires which assess their activity preferences and are then built into the program by the coordinator, Gwen Torsen.  Torsen is a Counselor at Tom McCall Upper Elementary.  At 2:45 p.m. the students stream into the hallways to go to their “Club” activity, which they chose from 26 club options. Clubs are predominantly “taught” by certified teachers and range from Adelante Mujeres’ Chicas program to Roots and Shoots, Choir, Band, and Orchestra.  The clubs include enrichment information and build student skills and broaden their perspective. From 4-5 p.m., academic classes focus on fluency, literacy, and math.  These classes, taught by licensed teachers, recruit kids who are performing lower than the 20th percentile in school.  Once the students perform over the 50th percentile, they “graduate” out and other kids come in to take their place.  The classes help kids get to the next level in their academic performance.  Buses from the school district take participants home at 4 or 5 p.m., depending on their schedules.  There is NO charge for participation. Every student who participates for 30 days receives a CLC T-shirt that they are proud to wear.  


Other services include a Summer Transition Program for fifth graders.  In addition, a Parent Summit was provided this past year.  Counselors taught sessions on childhood and teen development in both English and Spanish.  


How can this happen?  First, there is the cooperation of the school district in encouraging participation by staff at all levels and by subsidizing the program through building use, supplies, and Title I funding for school bus transportation home.  There is also volunteer participation and cooperation with non-profits such as Adelante Mujeres.  And, then there is the federally funded 21st Century Grant awarded through the Oregon Department of Education.  For $250,000/year, it is possible to hire teachers and staff as well as provide other materials.  Supplemental grants have bought Chromebooks that enable students in the math, literacy, and fluency groups to work on their tasks.  But a key ingredient is the organization through Gwen’s coordination and tracking.  Since the program is sponsored by Forest Grove School District, she can track every student’s participation and progress. The mission is to remove barriers and make sure equity is a focus. In coordinating the new grant application, she and her team built in additional features—partnering with another school, increasing enrichment classes to 43, and including two Parent Summits.  


As we struggle to ensure that other students in Washington County have a similar opportunity, we are reminded that the CLC program is funded by a grant that only lasts for five years and applications for renewal must change to have new features each time.  The current grant ends this year.  The new application has not yet been approved. 


Don't Miss Reach for the Stars!

You don’t want to miss Washington County Kids major event on August 2nd!  Reach for the Stars will be held at Montinore Winery between 6:30-8:30 pm.  If you have been to Montinore, you know the view is stunning and the setting is warm and inviting.


Our speaker will be Brad Avakian, Labor Commissioner, long-time supporter of civil rights and children’s issues and a stirring speaker.  Commissioner Avakian is stepping down from his statewide elected position in January. He has advocated for Career Technical Education as well as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) both in school and out.   


The evening will feature delicious hors d’oeuvres from Claey’s Catering and an opportunity to taste Montinore wines.  You also don’t want to miss the terrific silent auction items assembled by Claire Morgan. You will see baskets featuring wine and other goodies, date night packages, hand crafted items, restaurant gift certificates, opportunities to lunch with local politicians, and much, much more.


The event is chaired by Luann Pelton.  She has made it easy to purchase tickets through Eventbrite here!  You can sign up to be a sponsor on the same website. Several sponsorships are already reserved.  If you can’t attend, please make a donation. And by the way, all contributions are tax deductible!


Bring your friends and sign up today!


Community Conversations Update

WCK continues our Community Conversations project, in which we are working with partner organizations to host events to hear from parents, guardians, and interested community members to learn about their experiences with out of school time programs (early childhood, after school, and summer). .  While school is out, we are working to set up conversations with parents who have kids in summer programs. Two are already scheduled. We are also scheduling Conversations for this fall. If you know a group that would be interested in having a Conversation about caring for kids during non-school time, please contact Iris Maria Chavez, Conversations Coordinator, at

In addition, analysis of comments from our eight previous conversations is in process.  We are also drafting a questionnaire that can be sent to people who are not able to participate in a face-to-face Conversation.

Reward WCK with Fred Meyer Rewards

Please visit this website to link your Fred Meyer Rewards Card to WCK.  You still receive the same rewards as usual, but Fred Meyer makes a small donation to WCK when you choose to link your card.  You can enter our organization number: 86296, to link your card to our reward accont.  Thank you!

The WCK Data Training in June was a success!




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