TeenForce Program Report

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Core to the Mission

Portland Parks & Recreation has provided programs for youth and teens for as long as the bureau has offered recreation programs. Our Vision, Mission, and Values emphasize the role we play in helping Portlanders connect to place, self, and others – essential for a healthy city. More specifically, we help Portlanders - especially kids – play, promoting physical, mental, and social activity. This in turn builds community. Teens are an indispensable part of that proposition. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure teens are connected, engaged, and developing the life skills needed to navigate and lead in a complicated world. In 2008, participating teens overwhelmingly selected the name TeenForce, signifying that teens are a force to be reckoned with.

Designed for Success

PP&R’s current TeenForce Program has been in place since 2004. It has evolved considerably since then and currently consists of year-round teen programs at five community centers including the Montavilla Teen Center, which operates from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm, seven days a week. We are able to achieve extended impact through our non-profit partners.

In 2016, we contracted with PSU’s Center for Public Service to develop a “Theory of Success” model to define our approach to positive youth development. This model was informed by extensive input from staff, partners, and youth participants. As a result, the following components are deemed critical to successfully meeting the needs of our community and our youth.

  • Trusted adults creating and maintaining healthy and authentic relationships between staff and youth participants.
  • Welcoming spaces offering teens a sense of belonging and connectedness.
  • Diversity of activities enables every teen to learn, grow, and connect.
  • It takes a village to ensure that a culture of inclusive customer service to teens is present throughout parks and recreation facilities.
  • Through these building blocks, we are;
    • Creating individual Impact for participants as they develop confidence, identity, and connectedness,
    • Creating societal impact as teens are supported in becoming young adults ready to take their place in the world.

Rooted in Respect

PP&R emphasizes a Youth/Adult Partnership model to inform the TeenForce program. Teen Councils are active at our site-based programs, and each site has a dedicated teen space. Teens participate in hiring interviews for teen staff positions. PP&R recognizes that teens are our future customers, employers, employees, taxpayers, and partners. We need them as much as they need us.

Connected to Public Safety

Investment in youth programs improves outcomes and mitigates the risks teens face. We know that many of these risks, due to systemic and institutional racism, disproportionately impact youth of color:

  • Staying in school vs. dropping out
  • Active engagement in prosocial activities vs. unstructured and unsupervised out of school time
  • Strong sense of cultural identity and connectedness vs. isolation or gang involvement
  • Healthy relationships vs. teen pregnancy
  • Physical and emotional wellbeing vs. chronic preventable health conditions
  • Employment skills and opportunities vs. hopelessness and unemployment
  • Life skills and resiliency vs. reactive response to stresses of adolescence

Built upon a World-Class System of Parks and Facilities

PP&R has an ideal existing platform from which to collaborate in serving youth and teens. Whether we are providing services with PP&R staff or making our facilities available to others, we are leveraging the community’s investment to connect on a fundamentally impactful level.

Connected to Other Youth-Serving Organizations

PP&R works with partners to accomplish this work, letting each partner play to their strengths. Partners include:

  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
  • Latino Network 
  • Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)
  • Office of Youth Violence Prevention
  • Portland Opportunities Industrial Center (POIC)
  • Portland Police Bureau
  • and many others, including the vast network of youth advocates and allies who teach classes, lead programs, and connect youth with the programs that are available to them.

PP&R’s non-profit partners bring their teens to our centers and receive support in the form of grants. The program funds outreach workers who connect with youth seamlessly across settings and agencies

PP&R staff coordinate with school district and other public sector partners to recognize and respond to challenges and opportunities with individual teens.

2018 Teen Services Program Report


Karen Birt

Teen Services, Recreation Supervisor I