Who is SEI and what are we all about?
We are Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI), a nonprofit organization supporting at-risk urban youth. In 31 years, SEI has grown from a 1-week summer basketball camp to a flourishing agency serving thousands of students each year in the greater Portland, Oregon area, with plans to replicate across the country.
Whereas others see only statistics, we see strong individuals, tomorrow’s business owners and leaders, teachers and citizens. We help our students see themselves and their potential the same way. Then we help them find their strengths, ignite their passion and identify the plan that will move them in the direction of their dream. And we stay with them every step of the way, 24/7, 365 days a year from age eight through 25.
Mission statements, vision statements, slogans and credos are displayed on walls and websites all over for-profit and non-profit America. Some are poignant, some are pathetic. We think that too often they are just words that are pointed to now and then. Not here. Students and staff live by the SEI standards from the moment they walk through our doors.
Who are SEI kids and how do they become a part of the program?
Nationwide and right here in Portland, growing numbers of children are exposed to a host of risk factors such as poverty, abuse, neglect, jailed parents and/or siblings, gangs, substance abuse, absentee or abusive parents, and hunger. As a result, the number of young children with aggressive, noncompliant and acting-out behaviors in schools has been steadily rising.
SEI partners with teachers and school administrators to identify children most at risk, and then those students are individually assessed using the Walker-McConnell Scale and given a “risk” score. The Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment is used to determine the level of risk and social skill deficits. In 2009, 92% of the students enrolled at SEI scored as either severe or high risk.
- 97% African-American
- 85% qualify for free or reduced lunch
- 73% from single parent households
- 36% are gang affected
- 30% have a parent or sibling incarcerated
SEI students come from our own SEI Academy (middle school) and public schools including Boise Eliot, Vernon, Woodlawn and Ockley Green K-8 schools, as well as H. B. Lee middle school, Jefferson, Grant and Reynolds high schools.