Your Street, Your Voice

Starts April, 2017

Do you love design, cities and social justice? Are you interested in how your neighborhood is changing? Do you want to learn about both while earning a small stipend?


Through hands-on activities, this program will introduce you to the process of designing spaces and/or buildings, as well as the related people and professions involved in the process. Topics of density, gentrification, community context, and design sensitivity will be discussed, allowing participants to better understand how a space can impact a community.

For your project, you will choose a site in your neighborhood and will design a space (or other creative project) through the framework of considering how physical space impacts surrounding communities. Multiple means of creative exploration will be used to document your creative process and ideas. No prerequisite skills are required, other than interest and a willingness to participate!

The goal of this program is to empower you to explore and grow your interest in the surrounding environments and to ultimately have a voice in the process of making our communities better for all residents.

People of color and women are under-represented in the architecture community, and fewer than 2% of licensed architects in the U.S. are African American. Because we believe that diverse voices and perspectives drive creativity and innovation – and make for more equitable spaces – this program specifically seeks participation from students who identify with under-represented communities. ALL selected participants who complete the program in good standing will receive a $200 stipend.

Dates, times and location:

All program meetings will take place at the CENTER (3510 N. Vancouver Ave) from 4-6pm on Wednesdays from April 5th to May 24th. 


About the instructor: Joe Swank knew he wanted to be an architect from an early age, when he spent time drawing buildings and playing with Legos.  At the time he entered architecture school at the University of Oregon, he had little understanding of how much impact architecture and the built environment can have on the culture, safety, and economics of a community.  Joe has spent his career working on commercial and higher education buildings in many cities across the west coast, including Portland. Currently he is working on a new commercial office building that will be a catalyst project to anchor a new district in NW Portland.

Joe often donates his time to high school summer programs or camps in an effort to provide students with some exposure to the architecture profession, and other related professions that contribute to creating the built environment.  

Joe lives in NE Portland with his wife and two young children, and has a great interest in all the development that is shaping the neighborhood where his children will grow up.




Youth-Powered Conversations for Change

The Details...


WeLead is a collaboration between Oregon Humanities and Catlin Gabel’s PLACE program that trains high school students to lead community conversations about challenging issues. In 2016, fourteen students from seven Portland-area high schools participated in five training sessions focused on reflective discussion. The trainings culminated in a final event on the topic “Politics: Why You Should Care—An Insight into the 2016 Election.”

In 2017, trainings will be held at the CENTER in North Portland on Tuesday afternoons starting in October. The program will culminate in a public event created by program participants.

WeLead is open to students from all Portland-area high schools in their sophomore through senior years. Students will be compensated for time spent in the WeLead program with a $200 honorarium. Applications for the 2017 session will open later this spring. 


If you have questions, email