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Our Story



A Letter from our Executive Director:

In 2009 I was inspired to start PDX Summer School because of my first hand experience as an educator.

I am a 5th grade teacher at Harrison Park Elementary. When people ask me about my school I usually describe it as the UN of Portland Public Schools. There are kids from Mexico, Somalia, Micronesia, China, Vietnam. There is more diversity in culture and language than any other school in the Portland Public School District. It is also a school where 84% of our students are designated as low income.

As a teacher I witness first hand the impact that a summer break from school has on my students. The summer slide is a real thing and for students learning English it can be devastating to their progress.

Here is a story to help set the context:

Ruwieda is 9-years-old, she is from Somalia and in the 4th grade at Harrison Park.  She came to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Kenya in October of 2006 with her sister, Grandmother, two younger cousins and uncle. Ruwieda’s Mom is still living at that refugee camp in Kenya and unfortunately her father died of Malaria in 2008.  

When Ruwieda arrived in the U.S. she moved into three-bedroom home in SE Portland occupied by a total of 13 children and her Aunt and Uncle. Ruwieda did not speak any English when she arrived in the U.S.

Ruwieda is an incredible student and works very hard in school. She rarely gets into trouble and is an avid reader who enjoys writing. She participates in homework club after school. During that time she always finishes her homework and asks for more. She is hungry to learn and couldn’t be a better student to teach.  

Without PDX Summer School Ruwieda would have spent the summer at home with her 13 cousins speaking Somali. Her summer activities would have been extremely limited by her aunt and uncles work schedules so more often than not Ruwieda would stay at home. Not only would her English skills suffer but also her social skills.

For many students like Ruwieda the summer is not a break, it’s a step back. These students need access to education because it is their key out of the cycle of poverty. At PDX Summer School, we are the solution. We provide these students the tools they need to achieve when they return to the classroom in the fall.

At PDX Summer School we envision a community where every child receives the education they need to be successful. English Language Learners especially those from low-income levels need extra help to be successful in our schools, and we believe PDX Summer School provides them with the help they need to be successful. 

-Tim Schulze