When Dan Ryan joined All Hands Raised in 2008, he had his work cut out for him. The nonprofit, founded in 1994 as the Portland Public Schools Foundation, had been formed as an independent fundraising arm and advocacy group for PPS. But its efforts were only serving a small sliver of local kids.
“Portland Public Schools was only one school district,” says Ryan, who was elected to the PPS board in 2005 and resigned his seat when he joined All Hands Raised. “If we were going to be about education, excellence, and equity, we needed to serve those students east of PPS.”
In his first year, Ryan led the organization in reaching five new school districts and helped implement a program to counteract the low graduation rate for Multnomah County students. That was just the beginning. Since then, he’s established partnerships not only with schools, but with social workers, case managers, and local businesses. Those collaborations help tackle pivotal issues, from exclusionary discipline for students of color to destigmatizing careers in construction and manufacturing. The organization also collates data to inform its approach to achievement gaps for underserved children.
Paul Coakley, superintendent of AHR partner Centennial School District, says Ryan’s strength is listening to teachers and staff. “He gets into the actual implementation happening at schools—he’s not disconnected from it at all.”
For Ryan, pride comes from building a community of advisers tied to and concerned with the day-to-day lives of Multnomah County students. “That’s the momentum,” he says. “Culture change comes from those who are doing work on the ground.”
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