Support Shadow by Eating at ¿Por Qué? No on May 8

Support Shadow by Eating at ¿Por Qué? No on May 8

You can help Shadow Project teachers empower their students with learning challenges by eating at one of ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria’s two Portland locations on Wednesday, May 8.

Ten percent of all sales, all day, at either ¿Por Qué No? location will benefit Shadow teachers and kids, including dine-in, to go orders, merchandise, and gift certificates.

¿Por Qué No? is located at 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd. and 3524 N Mississippi Avenue, and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Proceeds will support children with learning challenges such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism in setting and achieving goals; reading with ears and eyes on audio-visual technology; and instilling calm and focus through sensory learning.

Northwest Health Foundation and partners advance equity for children in special education

Northwest Health Foundation and partners advance equity for children in special education

The Health & Education Fund will strengthen parent voices in advocating for children with learning challenges through a grant to The Shadow Project

The Shadow Projecthas received a $19,500 grant from the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF) and its Health & Education Fund partners: CareOregon, Meyer Memorial Trust, The Oregon Community Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente Northwest. The partners work collaboratively to address root causes of health and education disparities for underserved populations, prioritizing innovative and effective practices that build community capacity and resilience.

“Equitable education in childhood leads to better health throughout a person’s life,” said Michael Reyes, NWHF Community Engagement Officer. “Too often, children of color, children from families struggling to make ends meet, and children with disabilities don’t receive an equitable education. That’s why we’re excited to fund The Shadow Project.”

The Shadow Project will harness the strengths of opportunity communities to make school an inclusive place where children with conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism can thrive and belong. In Oregon, 79 percent of children with disabilities do not meet the milestone of third-grade reading proficiency that predicts high school graduation.

“Parent voice is urgently needed to increase educational equity for these promising students,” said Shadow Project Executive Director Christy Scattarella. “This project will build the leadership capacity of parents to drive our program delivery and create a unified voice for change.” The organization will convene at least two community gatherings that bring together Shadow’s network of parents and educators with organizations that have their own strong networks of parent advocates, including Decoding Dyslexia Oregon.

“When parents advocate for their children’s education, their children will experience better health their whole lives,” said Reyes.

Northwest Health Foundation seeks to advance, support, and promote health in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

How Do Mentors Help Kids with Disabilities? Here are Three Ways…

How Do Mentors Help Kids with Disabilities? Here are Three Ways…

By Sydney Clevenger

Grade levels behind in reading, Freddy* wasn’t sure where he fit in at his Portland, Oregon, elementary school. It was particularly hard when the rest of the class was reading silently and all Freddy could do was sit and watch because his learning challenge made reading a struggle.

Then Freddy was referred to an adult reading mentor through The Shadow Project for individual reading coaching using audio-visual technology specially designed for students with disabilities. At first, the third grader was shy and unresponsive with his mentor, a pre-graduate student named Taylor, when the two met weekly in his special education classroom to discuss books and set reading goals.

Fast forward three months and Freddy can’t stop talking about books. “I can hardly get Freddy to stop reading, and go back to class!” says Taylor.

What made the difference?

“Freddy feels a sense of belonging in school now,” says Taylor.

1. Feeling Included

Children with disabilities face many barriers to participating in school, including social isolation and physical exclusion, according to the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC). Young people with disabilities are more likely to be ostracized by their peers, and are three times more likely to experience social exclusion because of their typically smaller social network, says the NMRC in an October 2018 article Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities. In fact, children with learning disabilities are at high risk for life-long physical health problems, and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or suicide.

Mentors are one positive way to combat the social seclusion kids with disabilities experience.

Having Taylor show him how to access and download the same books his classmates were reading opened a new world for Freddy. With Taylor’s encouragement, Freddy was motivated to set and work toward achievable reading goals. He was able to read with his ears and eyes on the assistive technology, and so could participate in classroom conversations about books and do the classwork and homework assigned by the teacher, while boosting his vocabulary and reading comprehension. Freddy was able to read his downloaded books at home to hone his new literacy skills. And knowing Taylor would be at school once a week to ask what he was reading and offer help, pushed Freddy to try when the words got tough.

“Mentors give kids undivided attention,” said Taylor, “and it’s a really positive relationship because the kids feel special that you are here for them, which makes them feel more comfortable at school.”

2. Role Modeling

Mentoring also offers children with disabilities the chance to share experiences with an adult to whom they look up to and want to emulate. Most children look to their parents or caregivers as role models. However, given that children with learning challenges are twice as likely to be homeless or in the foster care system as those without (National Center for Children with Learning Disabilities) teachers and volunteer tutors are equally as important for children with disabilities, particularly those in lower-income communities whose parents may be absent and/or working.

Fourth-grader Juan,* who has a learning challenge, lives with his dad and sister in the bedroom of a small house they borrow from a friend. Juan’s dad works two jobs to support the family, and is not always home to give Juan the extra support he needs to read and complete homework. Juan struggles to read, and says it is extra hard to focus on a book in the small room where he is constantly surrounded by others.

A caring adult mentor in Portland Timbers Mascot Joey Webber, who had reading struggles when he was Juan’s age, was especially empowering for Juan. Timber Joey not only set motivating literacy goals for Juan on audio-visual technology and print books, but the two talked about tools Juan can use to make it easier to read at home, and the kind of environment where it’s easier to read, such as outdoors when the weather is decent.

Having a trusted figure to listen, share his own reading struggles, and genuinely care enough to offer constructive strategies made all the difference in Juan.  Juan was so excited to have a consistent male presence in his life who showed up weekly to talk to him about books, and encourage him to read, that he worked extra hard to excel, and his reading jumped two grade levels.

“Having the opportunity to share the challenges of reading and help struggling kids realize their potential is a very special experience,” says Timber Joey.

3. Confidence

Children with learning challenges are at risk for poor self-concept, according to the National Institutes of Health. Mentors can address and support this social-emotional need by being a stable and non-threatening presence in kids’ lives.

Fourth-grader Robert,* who has dyslexia and read at a first grade level, kept his hood on during class to try to make himself invisible, especially during reading. Robert had almost given up.

A mentor helped Robert believe in his own ability. As Robert built confidence in his literacy skills and advanced his reading level, he felt empowered to make his own decisions about what and when and how to read, and then he began advocating for himself.

The belief in one’s capability, or self-efficacy, is considered another key piece to academic achievement, motivation, and learning.

“I love seeing the progression from when they started through three months of mentoring,” says Timber Joey. “I have students who are now taking off hoods and opening up in public a little more. Mentoring has had a great impact on my life, too.”

Freddy can’t stop giggling. “I’m reading Diary of a Minecraft Zombie,” Freddy tells Taylor, pulling off the headphones that help him concentrate on his audio-visual book. “The character was being bullied and his parents couldn’t help and then he grew really big to fight them off, and he escaped. And then he ate something funny!”

Taylor laughs, too. “That sounds like an awesome book you’ve found. I can’t wait to hear where the story takes you next week.”

*Children’s names have been changed for privacy

Sydney is communications and development manager for The Shadow Project. To become a volunteer reading mentor, go to For information on how to get the Reading Mentors program at your school, please call 971-373-3457.

A Portland Public Schools Special Education Teacher Offers 3 Steps To Empower Students

A Portland Public Schools Special Education Teacher Offers 3 Steps To Empower Students

Children rarely have much power over their lives. They are told what time to get up, what to eat for breakfast, who their teachers are, what classes they must attend, and so on. This can be especially true for students in special education who often struggle in school, and receive even more academic and behavioral instruction. When a special education student has experienced trauma—hunger, homelessness, violence—the loss of control a student feels over even the simplest part of a school day can be exacerbated.

But at our school, children in special education are empowered to thrive. They are the ones in enviable positions getting to leave their classrooms for small group sessions in the learning center where they learn to be kind, listen to others, follow routines, and otherwise “do their jobs.” These messages motivate students to self-actualize, and they are succeeding with learning tools that help them think critically and persevere when the going gets tough.

So, how do we help students feels more confident in taking control of their lives?

The answer is simple: When students are allowed to make choices, they begin to have power.

In my classroom, I use a motivational program called The Shadow Project to help kids realize and use their power in making decisions over schoolwork and behavior. The Shadow Project provides resources and incentives so that our students can do their jobs with more confidence and feel the value of a task well done.

1. Goal Setting

When students set goals for themselves, they are able to see they have a say in their own path forward. They aren’t being told where they must make gains, they are guided towards goals. They are given power in choosing their goals. They are listened to and their opinions are valued. When students’ ideas and opinions are valued, they are empowered.

2. Incentives

Not all kids get a paycheck for the work they do! Our learning center students who do their job and act like respectful, responsible students get Shadow Bucks (classroom money) just like an adult might earn a paycheck. If students don’t engage in learning in a way supportive to our community, they don’t earn Shadow Bucks like their peers. Students keep their Shadow Bucks in envelopes (we call them wallets) and periodically get to count their Bucks, and can decide to trade up for bigger bills, which is motivating as the Bucks accumulate, as well as good for math skills.

3. Celebrate

It is important to take notice of kids’ progress and accomplishments, particularly those with learning disabilities whose forward movement may be incrementally smaller, and who aren’t always recognized for their efforts.  So, every six weeks we have Shadow Day. In order to participate in Shadow Day, our students are expected to have a strong work ethic with community-minded behavior to match. This doesn’t mean that they need to be perfect. This just means that when our students make mistakes, they are motivated to set goals and improve where needed so that they can achieve their goals and participate in the celebration.

Shadow Day is a top secret event only for our kids in special education. They know not to talk about it with their peers, because it is a privilege, and we don’t want other students to feel bad that they are not included. This secret celebration makes them feel special and in charge of their destiny. Older students get to help choose the Shadow Day date. Then, we post the date in the classroom so that the date is known by all our students who need to know. On Shadow Day—like a payday for adults—students are empowered to spend their “paycheck” in whatever way they choose with their Bucks. They can select gifts, school supplies, books, sensory tools, art supplies, and more. Being able to spend one’s own paycheck as one chooses is empowering. Where else can young children in a lower-income community have the power to earn and purchase?

Empowering kids with special needs through goal setting, earning Shadow Bucks, and celebrating Shadow Day gives meaning to students’ lives. As Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”  When my kids feel that they are spending their days at school with a purpose they are more motivated to show up and work hard. Our students’ purpose is supported by their kind, caring teachers … and by The Shadow Project.

Shadow Teacher Beth BrodBeth Brod, M.A., is a longtime special education teacher in Portland, Oregon, currently based at Woodmere Elementary School in the Portland Public School district.

The Shadow Project Helps Build Perseverance

The Shadow Project Helps Build Perseverance

Ronan, a third grader with dyslexia, didn’t want to read aloud, because his classmates sometimes made fun of his slow pace. Ronan’s teacher used the Shadow Project to help Ronan persevere, and he doubled his reading speed. In fact, 89% of Shadow students say they continue trying, even when schoolwork is difficult.

Ronan’s teacher, Heather Stearns, set regular reading goals with Ronan, and used Shadow reinforcers to build his confidence. Naturally quiet, Ronan began emerging from his shell and is now the first one in class to raise his hand to share ideas. He is completing work regularly and is reading 50 percent faster than before, said Heather.

Mom, Alissa, is thrilled. “For Ronan, school is really hard. Watching him struggle with reading has been the hardest for me as a parent.

“But Ronan is so determined,” said Alissa. “No matter how frustrating the work is, he never gives up. He has a great attitude. I’m so grateful that organizations like The Shadow Project are out there to get Ronan the tools that he needs.

“The Shadow Project has been very positive. The program does a good job of making reading something you can do so you’re never embarrassed or ashamed. The news of Ronan’s improvement made my whole year!”

Donate now by clicking here.