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Dreaming big: PSU & Alder Elementary


Alder Elementary
By the numbers

  • 580 students
  • 94% of students live in poverty
  • 24% are homeless
  • 27 languages spoken
  • More than 70% enter kindergarten with little or no English language skills

All hands shot up in a fourth-grade bilingual class for a chance to read with Linse Sullivan, a music education major at Portland State.

Linse and eight other PSU students and staff members volunteered Dec. 7 in classrooms at Alder Elementary, a high-poverty school in east Portland where going to college is a school-wide goal.

Alder is the nation’s first Dreamer School, chosen by the “I Have a Dream” Foundation for extra services and support to help students succeed in school and finish college.

Portland State supports Alder’s goal — and the university’s mission to serve the city — all year long by helping in classrooms, giving out PSU T-shirts, hosting campus visits, and adopting a grade level for extra attention.

PSU’s Student Leaders for Service picked Alder for its new “First Friday” program, a new monthly service project helping a different community group on the first Friday of every month. In December, students and staff from the Student Activities Leadership Programs office volunteered at Alder as classroom aides.

The college message is everywhere you look at Alder. A sign in the entry declares, “Alder students are college bound,” in English and Spanish. College banners decorate the school hallways, cafeteria and gym.

And a “Go Viks” sign was posted above the teacher’s desk as 9-year-old Ramiro Roque got his chance to read quietly and diligently to Linse.

“When college students come, it’s like they are celebrities,” said Shyvonne Williams, manager of Alder’s Dreamer program.