After I graduated from high school I got a part time job at the Southeast Youth Service Center as a Youth Outreach Counselor. My job was to hang out where kids were and encourage them to get counseling. Or something like that. Our office was on SE Division near 35th or something. I started there in 1973 and over the winter into 1974.
So I parked near where I thought the place used to be and looked around. It’s all semi-familiar anyway because of how much time I’ve lived in Portland, especially southeast.
I was very shy, not at all outgoing. It was a terrible job for me but I did it because I thought I should be about social service. Some of that I got from Ananda Marga and the fact that I lived very inexpensively at the Jagriti. It was very uncomfortable work. First off, though I was young, I had no business hanging out where the kids were. The natural assumption was that I was a narc.
The way I figured out to deal with it was to spend all the rest of my time volunteering at the schools that were part of my target area- Cleveland High School and Sellwood Elementary. Having work at these places gave me cover to “hang out” and be paid for my job.
At Cleveland I became a classroom volunteer with the Options program which addressed the needs of students considered on the verge of failing or dropping out (also part of my demographic for work). I played a whole lot of jax in the cafeteria.
I drove over to Cleveland HS and took it’s picture.
While near Cleveland I looked in one some places I used to live that were nearby.
Back to 1973-74.
On alternate days I volunteered at the Trainable Mentally Retarded Classroom at Sellwood School. The “TMR” unit was the first of it’s kind in a regular Portland Public School. It was held in a trailer behind the school. I fell in love with the students.
I soon became aware that I hated my job and decided to volunteer full time. I spent most of my time working with the kids in the classroom at Sellwood. That was how I became aware of the job in June-early August at the Kiwanis Camp on Mt. Hood. So, when school let out I headed up to Rhododendron for the summer.
Over the next 10 weeks there would be a different group of disabled kids at the camp every week. They were grouped by age (with at least 3 weeks devoted to adults) and type/ level of disabling condition. There were camps full of hyperactive little kids and camps full of people in wheelchairs and lots of just amazing people I had never seen before. It was the next step in the journey.
In terms of my career tour it was time to head up to the mountain.
When I reached the gate there was a man leaving. He said he was the last one there and he had locked up. I told him I worked there in 1974 and he told me they had plowed a parking area up the road and I was welcome to wander around the place on my own.
The wonder of that summer included, upon my return to civilization in August, a letter from the University Scholars Program at Portland State University. The letter informed me that I, a fellow with no grades from his last 2 years of high school and no SAT scores and no academic involvement, had impressed them with my level of academic achievement and they were inviting me to join the Honors College at PSU.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that other people had needed to meet strict grade and SAT level criterion to get in. It was mysterious and compelling.
I thought it was a sign. So I showed up at the Scholars Program and next thing I knew I was a full time student with a career goal of working with people who have disabilities. Initially I was just going for the special ed teacher kind of thing but soon learned there were more opportunities.
The Kiwanis Camp, it turns out, had significant connections in the special ed department at PSU. That connection somehow became a recommendation that got me in college headed for a career.