The National Civic League has announced that Portland is a winner of the 73rd Annual 2022 All-America City Award. This year’s award recognized ten communities across the United States who are using public housing as a platform to support children’s success in school. Portland was recognized as an example of community collaboration for its partnerships between Portland Housing Authority, the Portland Public Schools and a network of community organizations who are part of the Portland ConnectED partnership.
A plaque presentation ceremony with a representative from National Civic League took place Aug. 26 at Riverton Park in Portland.
The pandemic highlighted many long-standing disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income families and children in Portland. Local organizations have worked together to bring opportunity to children living in public housing and address the barriers that may get in the way of school success. Portland Housing Authority and the Portland Public Schools have collaborated to expand opportunities for tutoring, internships and out-of-school-time learning experiences, as well as opportunities for the whole family to support their children’s education. Portland ConnectED, a cradle-to-career partnership, brings together over 50 community organizations working in collaboration with Portland Housing Authority and the Portland Public Schools to advance a shared goal of all children succeeding in school.
The National Civic League commended Portland’s commitment to cross-sector collaboration; meaningful partnerships with the public housing agency; data-based solutions; and equity, including racial equity. According to Doug Linkhart, President of the National Civic League, “We are happy to designate Portland as an All-America City. They showed, even in the face of a global pandemic, that they can bring people together to help kids and families thrive.”
This year’s award was hosted in collaboration with the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which supports communities to foster school success by focusing on reading proficiency, a key predictor of high school graduation. According to Ralph Smith, Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, "Portland is meeting families ‘where they are’ through a 24/7/365/multi-generational set of systems, supports and services. In doing so, the community is working to disrupt generational poverty for young learners and their families." Portland has been a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network member since 2014.
The All-America City Award is the nation’s most prestigious recognition for civic innovation, recognizing communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation to address local issues. Winning communities often see an economic stimulus effect, as the recognition can attract new residents, businesses, tourism and funding. This year, 20 communities from around the country were designated finalists based on a robust application process and were invited to present to a national jury panel, who then selected ten cities to be All-America City Award winners. Portland ConnectED worked with community partners to apply for the award on behalf of the community’s work. Portland last won the All-America City Award in 1950.
About Portland ConnectED: Portland ConnectED is a partnership of organizations committed to supporting high-quality education for all children and youth in Portland from cradle to career. Partners include over 50 organizations from the education, government, business, non-profit, health, and philanthropic sectors, reflecting the belief that it will take the whole community working together to achieve results. Founding partners include: the City of Portland, John T. Gorman Foundation, The Opportunity Alliance, Portland Public Library, Portland Public Schools, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Southern Maine Community College, United Way of Southern Maine, University of Southern Maine. Starting Strong is the early age component of Portland ConnectED, focused on children from birth to age 8. United Way of Southern Maine serves as the fiscal agent for Portland ConnectED.
About Portland Housing Authority: The Portland Housing Authority and its affiliated corporations provide long-term affordable rental housing and rental assistance to more than 3,000 low-income families, seniors and disabled individuals through its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs. It houses over 6,500 residents, close to 10% of the City’s population. The agency believes that providing safe, quality, affordable housing gives its residents the stability they need and the opportunity for success they deserve. PHA was established in 1943 under State enabling legislation and authorized by resolution of the Portland City Council.
About the Portland Public Schools: The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
About United Way of Southern Maine: United Way of Southern Maine (UWSM)’s mission is to improve people’s lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. UWSM unites individuals and organizations around our community’s shared vision to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Southern Maine. With community partners, UWSM builds on strategies that are known to achieve the best results, and rigorously evaluates progress toward those goals. UWSM actively seeks to engage donors, advocates, and volunteers to create measurable, long-lasting community change. Learn more at uwsme.org.
About the National Civic League & All-America City Award: Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the prestigious All-America City Award. The National Civic League advances inclusive civic engagement through our community assistance programs, including tools, trainings and facilitation services, our award and recognition programs, and nationally recognized research and publications. We promote efforts that seek to listen to, and to learn from residents in ongoing conversations and leverage those insights to help reshape communities so they will thrive.
The All-America City Award is made possible through the support of Southwest Airlines, the official airline sponsor, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, CGI Digital, MissionSquare Retirement, HealthONE, and Womble Bond Dickinson.