Community Engagement Expands to Deepen Students’ Connection with Portland Region and Beyond

We are committed to providing students with dynamic learning experiences that allow them to make meaningful contributions in the world.

Engaging students in learning with others beyond the classroom and campus is a core principle of progressive education and has been part of the Catlin Gabel experience for decades. Although the principle has not changed, community engagement itself has adapted over time to best meet the needs of neighbors, civic organizations, society, and our students.

Today, as the school seeks to develop programming that is responsive to community issues and inclusive of all students, we see an opportunity to expand partnerships across Portland and beyond. Based on what we have learned from current programs and partners, and input from Catlin Gabel’s Diversity Action Council, the school is developing a new vision for community engagement that will lead to diverse and meaningful learning experiences for students from preschool to 12th grade.

Our focus is on creating and sustaining equitable, authentic relationships that address needs identified by community partners and that are shaped by guiding principles and learning objectives at the school. Through these experiences, students will gain a deeper understanding of and connection to communities beyond Catlin Gabel, engage in respectful and constructive partnerships, and recognize the power of responsible action, both now and throughout their lives.

In addition to experiential opportunities developed at the divisional levels, the PLACE program and the CENTER have been central to shaping Catlin Gabel’s approach to community engagement. Informed by the design of these successful programs, the school is revising and expanding the role and responsibilities of their current director, George Zaninovich. George, who has directed the PLACE urban studies program and The CENTER, the school’s satellite learning space in North Portland, since 2015, will transition to the Director of Community Engagement at the start of the next academic year. His responsibilities, which will be aligned with Catlin Gabel’s vision of becoming an antiracist school, will include creating and supporting programs across the three divisions in collaboration with divisional leadership, both on and off campus. This role will continue to be housed within the Office of Inclusion and Outreach. “George has established strong partnerships with a diverse group of organizations and individuals. This shift allows him to continue those partnerships and devote his time more broadly to community engagement. I’m excited to see this work expand,” says Jasmine Love, Director of Catlin Gabel’s Office of Inclusion and Outreach.

Over the past five years, the work of the CENTER, the Coalition partners, and the PLACE program helped expand youth-led programming around the Portland metro area, meeting key goals of the original vision. The CENTER supported these efforts by providing a place where students could study urbanization and equity. Over time, the CENTER’s success was rooted more in its community partnerships than in the space itself. For the past 14 months during the pandemic, the CENTER has been closed, creating an opportunity to rethink its utility. At the same time, the rent increased significantly, making the space no longer financially viable. For these reasons, the school has chosen to not reopen the space.

It is important to note, however, that Catlin Gabel is committed to sustaining our established community partnerships, including those with the CENTER Coalition members: Black United Fund of Oregon, De La Salle North Catholic High School, Urban League of Portland, KairosPDX, and Latino Network. These partnerships will continue to be essential in our ongoing efforts for our students to engage, connect, and take action in communities throughout the Portland region and beyond.

Learn More