A Letter on Equity from OregonASK
For the last 15 years, our vision at OregonASK has always been that ALL Oregon children and youth are prepared for success in school, career, and life, fostered through access to high-quality afterschool and summer programs.  During these years we have always been grateful for our diverse membership and how the programs we serve around the state care for their youth and communities. We have also known that the opportunities are not equitable.
I am deeply saddened at recent violent acts of racism, based on a history of inequity and injustice. These events have caused immense sorrow and frustration across our community. As youth workers, children look up to us to teach them right from wrong.

The death—the murder—of George Floyd is wrong. Our country’s unrelenting, inequitable treatment of people of color is wrong. The systemic racism embedded in our society is simply wrong.
Unfortunately, for communities of color and the youth that out-of-school time providers serve, these acts are not standalone. To our colleagues of color, we see the extra burden you carry of living in a country that may feel unsafe and unjust. I want you to know that the Network is here to support you and to actively work to change those systems that support these inequities.   To our white colleagues, we encourage you to continue your work in becoming actively antiracist and to always work towards being a better ally.  

The discussions on access and equity the Afterschool Network has hosted over the last few years made me incredibly proud to be a member of the afterschool community.  I am constantly amazed by the strength, innovation, and heart for this work. I have been a witness to the brave conversations about the impact of racism on children that is all around us: Black children whose parents are taken from them by police violence and incarceration; Latino children caged at the border; American Indian children whose communities lack clean running water; and Asian American children whose communities have been falsely blamed for a pandemic. Children of color grow up in a society that too often devalues them solely because of their skin color or national origin. Data highlights the unacceptable disparities in health , education , and other key outcomes for children and youth of color. Research attests to the lasting physical, mental, and economic toll that racism takes on children.
I have to admit that what I find most troubling is the threat to the future: the threat that we will lose hope for progress, that we will fail to provide today’s youth with the means to move beyond the circumstances of their birth, that racism in all its subtle, suffocating forms will continue. This is a terrible moment in history that challenges us to recommit ourselves to the fight against racism and for justice.
Yet, I still find inspiration in our work, that we can make a difference for this next generation, to give them opportunities and hope for a better life. If we can make their hopes and dreams more attainable then we will have done some measure of good, helping to restore hope and dissipating the anger now on display in our communities. This generation of children needs investment, now more than ever, to access the ladder of social and economic progress. I want to encourage you to make sure that when in your care, every child knows that they are safe and that their voice will be heard. We can help every child, no matter the color of their skin, know that they are part of the solution in building true equity and justice.

I want to acknowledge that these are not easy conversations. But they are critical. Please join us for future conversations as we act together in solidarity. 

With hope for our future,
Beth Unverzagt, OregonASK Executive Director
OregonASK Expanded Learning Partnership
Wilsonville, OR 97070