top of page

Creating Pathways for Success

Annual UNCF drive propels Black students

Michelle M. Harper

A dedicated group from the Black community is once again raising scholarships this summer to help local high school students of color get the financial assistance they need to go on to higher education, while also providing them valued mentorships that can create pathways for college and obtaining new life skills. The annual “Each One Teach One Jazz in the Garden” fundraising luncheon on Sunday, July 17 at the Portland Hilton, downtown, will join community members with area business, civil, and education leaders to support the United Negro College Fund and create a college ready culture that gives students the support they need for success. For tickets, and more information about making a donation and sponsorship opportunities, visit or email

Sponsored by the UNCF Leadership Council, a Portland area group that gives their time and resources to help propel Black youth, the event raises money for scholarships for students attending any college or university of their choice while also supporting the UNCF’s Pacific Northwest Portfolio Project which guides high school students through scholarship application processes and helps them to have the skills they need for success in college. Michelle M. Harper, board chair of the Leadership Council, will be honored as Individual of the Year at the upcoming event. Harper told the Portland Observer she appreciates the recognition but didn’t expect it. “I’m a person behind the scenes and very humble about those types of things,” she said. “I come from a family with a legacy of giving back and it was the foundation of how we were raised.” The luncheon will also honor six newly appointed African American college presidents in the Portland metro area, Harper said. This year marks the fifth UNCF scholarship event, which was started by Harper and former Leadership Council board member Clarence Nesbitt, a Black corporate attorney who worked for Nike at the time. “He talked about the need to bring the community together, letting students know they have a collective that cares about them and is concerned that they be on a pathway to success,” Harper said. The council’s Portfolio Project, for example, is a college preparatory program where students learn what’s required for college admission. For the beginning of the upcoming school year, outreach events are scheduled Sept. 24 at both Warner Pacific College in Portland and Clark College in Vancouver. The students will be provided with computers at these events, and paired with designated mentors to help them prepare their high school graduation portfolios and help them set the stage to follow-up support and guidance for their entire college careers, Harper said. Community partners providing major financial help to these local efforts, include US Bank, Meyer Memorial Trust, Nike, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Adidas, Anderson Construction, and Alaska Airlines. “Alaska supports us by getting the students to their first college visits as well as getting them home through different college breaks, and their partnership is huge,” Harper said. Many other partners expose the students to different careers and support them in a variety of ways. The Leadership Council operates under the auspices of the UNCF Pacific Northwest, which has a small staff based in Seattle that covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, and hosts a huge fundraising gala each year. The Each One Teach One event is the main fundraiser for UNCF efforts in the Portland Metro area, and the council also sponsors a Walk for Education in September. The Leadership Council supports more than 400 programs, including support for HBCUs. This will be the first in-person event for the UNCF Leadership Council since the easing of coronavirus pandemic restrictions on public gatherings. “It’s a wonderful way to come together, a way to see getting involved, whether as a mentor or a speaker, helping to raise money for scholarships, resources of respective companies, educating them and exposing them to the different options for them,” Harper said. “We see ourselves as being able to be that bridge for them to cross.” --Beverly Corbell


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page