Friends of the Children Central Oregon (“Friends Central Oregon”),  announced today it will expand its services to La Pine, Oregon, with the mission to break generational cycles of poverty through its long-term, professional mentoring program for youth in the community.

With initial funding from the WoodNext Fund and Central Oregon Health Council, and additional awards from The Ford Family Foundation, Deschutes County, The Maybelle Clark MacDonald Fund,  Sunriver Women’s Club, the organization launches their expansion to La Pine with nearly three years of operating budget secured. To fulfill the role and mission of supporting and guiding children, Friends Central Oregon has hired two Professional Mentors, called “Friends”, who are dedicated to serving 16 newly enrolled kindergarteners from La Pine Elementary and Rosland Elementary.

Friends Central Oregon prioritized an expansion plan to serve rural communities, with the decision to expand to La Pine carefully considered.  “Our commitment to serve youth throughout Central Oregon is by design. It’s right there in our name” said Executive Director, Rachel Cardwell. “This intentional step into La Pine is incredibly exciting for us.”  The organization gained support from key community stakeholders, including public officials, state and local agencies, business leaders, community organizations, and philanthropic leaders. The Bend La Pine School District is also a key partner and has played a significant role in the expansion to La Pine.

Lora Nordquist, Deputy Superintendent of Bend La Pine School District said, “The school district has been a proud partner of Friends of the Children Central Oregon since its founding in 2017.  It serves as a link between school time, home, and other areas of a child’s life to create stability and consistency.  I value and commend the work they are doing on behalf of the next generation and on behalf of Bend La Pine Schools.”

Fueling the decision to expand was data emerging from the pandemic – that more children, especially children of color and those living in poverty, have fallen further behind academically and are experiencing increased behavioral and mental health challenges than prior to 2020. Rural communities, which already faced significant disparities compared to urban settings, experienced additional challenges through virtual learning such as more limited technology access and availability of caregiver support. In both 2021 and  2022, La Pine’s high school graduation rate was below 60%, well-below the state average (81.3%).

Friends Central Oregon is also integrating structured educational support into their professional mentorship model this spring. It is currently recruiting for a new position, an Educational Program Manager, focused on providing individualized educational support to ensure youth are hitting grade level benchmarks in core areas.  This summer, the EPM will run a Summer Literacy Camp, specific to the La Pine cohort of kindergartners, with the goal of bringing all newly enrolled youth up to grade level expectations by the start of school this fall.


About Friends of the Children

Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit started in Portland, OR 30 years ago. The Central Oregon chapter became 501c3 in October 2017 with the mission of breaking the cycle of generational poverty by giving the most vulnerable children the ability to create a new story. We provide our children with a long-term, salaried, professional mentor, who we call a Friend, from kindergarten through graduation—12+ years, no matter what. Our Friends support and guide children in becoming healthy and contributing members in the community. Visit for more information.

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