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Bringing Native Voice to the PAC

Winter Rose is many things: a community education worker (CEW) at Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), a supporter of parent leaders involved in ELM’s Parent Accountability Council (PAC), a Native American from the Red Lake clan of the Ojibwe people, a mother. 

Four years ago, when she first started working as an intern at NAYA, she found herself doing what any parent of a three-year-old child would do: searching for affordable preschool options.

“Only when I started working as an intern at NAYA did I learn that Portland even had culturally specific education services like Head Start and Montessori. Before then, I had no idea!” said Winter. “Once I heard of the opportunity, without a doubt it was the kind of Head Start experience I wanted my son to have. To access these services, I had to drive all the way from SE Portland to North Portland, which was only possible because I work in NE. I remember giving my perspective as to the accessibility of the school and wondering how parents without a car or ones that worked in other parts of Portland could possibly access it.” 

As Winter continued to work at the front desk at NAYA, she heard first-hand from many other families in her community about the barriers they faced and their needs that went unmet. Soon after, she got involved in the Community Education Worker (CEW) program. As a trained CEW, she began connecting families to culturally specific services, from Head Start to medical and dental services. 

“What I find helps families most is the ability to truly meet the family where they are,” Winter said. “I get to meet with families with my only prerogative being supporting and empowering them. To have a say in their child’s education journey. To find a doctor the family is comfortable with. To offer soft handoffs to services that stabilize and support each family’s needs.”     

With her intimate understanding of the experience of many Native American families with young children, Winter was well poised to get involved with ELM’s PAC. On the PAC, she supports two Native American parent leaders who are PAC members, while also sharing her own insights. 

“To be a part of the PAC feels how it looks. We are an all-star team of parents that are all pushing against a system that historically hasn’t served our children the way that it could,” said Winter. “It feels like walking against a strong wind without worry because you have an even stronger force behind you making you feel powerful and safe. In my time with PAC, not only have I seen parent leaders come together pushing for a common cause, I have seen marginalized communities come together, empowering one another, breaking down walls with commonalities and working together toward the better future we all want for our children.”

Learn more about ELM's PAC here

Photo by Kayla Yeoman.