Finalists in 2013 Maps Community Challenge Focus on Helping Young People Transition Out Of Foster Care

Three finalists with unique ideas for helping young people transition out of foster care are now competing for the top prize in the 2013 Maps Community Challenge, the nationally recognized signature event of the Maps Community Foundation.

Royce Markley, Lara Barnes, and Rachel Freeburg have each posted videos on Maps Credit Union’s Facebook page; the finalist whose video receives the most “likes” will be awarded $1,000 at Maps’ annual meeting on Oct. 29, and an additional $1,000 will be awarded to a related nonprofit chosen by Maps and the contest winner.

“The Community Challenge has been absolutely amazing for the credit union and for the community,” says Jennifer Cadiente, who works in Maps’ development department. “Last year’s winner, Cyndi Astley, went on to secure many more grants to help create the program she envisioned and grow it into something even bigger and better, creating a youth-empowerment program to serve the kids at her day shelter.”

Maps serves more than 45,000 members in Oregon’s Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties. The credit union formed its Community Foundation in 2011 to “build financial security through education,” and its inaugural Challenge last year—which sought solutions to teen homelessness—won a first-place Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award from the Credit Union National Association.

The result, Cadiente says, has been to raise awareness about the Foundation “and all of the great work it enables us to do for our community.”

The Foundation is funded through the credit union’s Free Community Checking accounts. Every time a member uses an account-related debit card to make a purchase in a store or online, Maps donates a penny to the Foundation. The Challenge helps focus those donations on improving the lives of the area’s neediest residents by gathering potential solutions from a wide cross-section of the community.

Cadiente says Maps settled on the foster-care theme after learning that 12,994 Oregon children were in foster care for at least one day in 2011; that as many as 22 percent of foster youth spend at least one night homeless in the year after they transition out of the system; and that only 9 percent of former foster kids complete college, compared to 24 percent of the general population.

Community Development Officer Mitzi Smith and her team narrowed the contest entries down to three finalists. They are:

Royce Markley:

Markley, a former foster youth and now a college student, proposes a system of peer mentors who could provide the kind of advice and support that foster teens would actually listen to. Markley works with Oregon Foster Youth Connection to advocate for foster youth, and was part of the group that helped draft and lobby for the Oregon Foster Youth Bill of Rights that was signed into law in June. View Markley’s video here.

Lara Barnes:

Barnes, the director of quality assurance at Options Counseling and Family Services in Marion County, suggests a career training program that helps foster youth learn new job skills. Barnes says she believes the program could help foster youth find and retain steady employment and avoid homelessness. Look for her video here.

Rachel Freeburg:

Freeburg, an advocate coordinator for CASA of Marion County, would create a nonprofit—led and staffed by people under the age of 23—that teaches independent-living skills to current and former foster youth. She says her idea was inspired by the work of the Student Alliance Project in Portland, which builds self-confidence and trust among youth transitioning from foster care, homelessness, or incarceration. Check out Freeburg’s video here.

Voters have until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, to “like” their favorite proposal on Maps’ Facebook page. More information is also available from Jennifer Cadiente at 503.588.0181 ext. 3230 or jcadiente@mapscu.com.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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