Rogue Valley organization uses community to help families succeed

MEDFORD, Ore. – The feeling of community has changed a lot during the pandemic, but despite the challenges of gathering during COVID-19 one local organization is working to strengthen its community for the future success of students. That organization is the Black Southern Oregon Alliance, where it creates an environment black families in the Rogue Valley feel represented.

“It’s so important that students see themselves reflected in the community and their schools, in their curriculum,” said Becca Laroi is the Assistant Principal of Ashland High School.

She said in a primarily white area, research shows it’s crucial for black, indigenous, people of color or BIPOC students’ success to see themselves represented. A John Hopkins study suggests that if a black student has one black teacher in their K-12 experience they are 18% more likely to pursue higher education. Now, the same study said if a black student has two black teachers in their educational career they are 32% more likely to pursue higher education.

“When students don’t see themselves reflected in a community then they’re not going to start to dream of these are the things that I can do,” said Laroi.

Laroi told NBC5 News that starts when kids are in school.

“The first time I ever had a black teacher was in grad school. I didn’t even have a black teacher in undergrad or my K-12 experience. I imagine what that experience would have been like had I seen someone who looked like me,” said Laroi.

Now she’s the one inspiring students of color in the Rogue Valley. In fact, the community is growing stronger virtually with Black Southern Oregon Alliance, as well as Southern Oregon BASE.

“Students from Portland, students from Northern California area join us. So we were able to have some outreach to some other areas,” said Laroi.

The talk of community doesn’t stop there, but rather, feeling a belonging within Southern Oregon.

Medford School District’s D.L. Richardson said to create unity across all ethnicities, it starts with simply talking about race.

“The more we hide from it, and let [us] be honest Oregon is known for that, and Southern Oregon is known for that the better it’ll be for us to come together. Until we get to know one another and talk with one another we’re never gonna get past that point,” said Richardson.

He tells parents their kids are capable of handling tougher topics than you might think.

“My child has been dealing with it every day if she’s able to be aware of it, why can’t the kids that are a part of the classroom deal with it,” said Richardson.

© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]
Skip to content