Open Meadow Alternative School


Program Summary:
Established in 1971, Open Meadow is one of Oregon’s oldest alternative schools providing education and support services to youth who have not achieved success in traditional academic settings. Over the years, Open Meadow supplemented its curriculum with a program called the Corps for Restoring the Urban Environment (CRUE) to enhance school-to-career services for high school students through a project-based and community involvement curriculum. Open Meadow also opened a drop-out prevention middle school program. The goals of the Open Meadow program are 1) to re-engage high risk youth so they will complete their education; and 2) to connect high risk youth to their community in a positive way. The Open Meadow process for doing this is to educate youth in small relationship-based programs that emphasize personal responsibility, academics, and service to the community.

Youth with disabilities in Open Meadow are referred by the Portland Special Education Department using the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which schools review with the student’s parents before referral. After referral, each youth fills out a screening form, which, combined with an interview, elicits disability information. The purpose is to determine if the program structure will meet the student’s needs. Open Meadow works primarily with youth with mental and learning disabilities, such as Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, and others. When youth reach age 16, a transition plan is completed. These plans explore whether or not the youth needs vocational rehabilitation, would benefit from referral to a community college professional specializing in students with disabilities, or may be ready to enter employment. In the latter case, a job developer or case manager works to find a job site.

Program Structure/Design: The Open Meadow program year is divided into three 12-week trimesters programs and a summer component. Youth who enroll begin with a 30-day probationary period that allows the youth to decide whether or not to commit to the program. The school provides a full range of services, including job readiness and occupational skills training, paid and unpaid internships, alternative educational offerings, leadership development opportunities, comprehensive guidance and counseling, supportive services, and transition and follow-up services. Each trimester incorporates academics, group field trips, group service projects, and life skills classes. Classes integrate work and learning and focus on the application of academics to real life. Interpersonal relationships as well as the importance of academics and personal responsibility are emphasized.

Middle school youth (ages 12 to 14) can earn so-called “qualifiers” toward high school eligibility. All youth ages 14 to 21 work toward their high school diploma. Open Meadow provides three project-based career tracks through the CRUE program: Natural Resources, Integrated Marketing, and Communications. For example, under the Natural Resources track, students conduct a native plants feasibility study. In addition to meeting academic requirements, Open Meadow requires that all youth complete transition plans with guidance from their advocates and transition coordinators. Other learning experiences available to students who complete one trimester of CRUE and who are interested in continuing the program include work-based activities that can lead to internships and work experience. Further, through the Pathways program, Open Meadow links with Oregon colleges and universities to provide support for youth transitioning to postsecondary education.

States of Operation: OR

Youth Targeted:
• In-school youth (this includes prior school dropouts or those dismissed from school)
• Runaway and homeless youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth offenders
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Urban youth
• Minority or Caucasian, male or female
• From families below the poverty level
• Credit deficient
• Deficient in basic literacy or math skills
• Substance abuse

ODEP Funded: No
Profile Year: 2007


Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Open Meadow provides extensive opportunity for youth to improve their work readiness and career development through work-based experiences. These work-based experiences include the following five areas: 1) project-based curriculum for CRUE students; 2) academic courses such as Pre-Employment Training, which includes training in job search, resume writing, and interview skills; 3) work opportunities including internships, summer jobs, and in-house work-study opportunities; 4) subsidized and unsubsidized work experience; and 5) ongoing participation in area job fairs.

Youth Development and Leadership: Open Meadow provides a number of opportunities for students to develop leadership skills. These include quarterly participation in community service projects, involvement in the Student Review Board (the participant policy-setting board), training in public speaking and actual presentations, and representing Open Meadow at area conferences and meetings. As a part of the required graduation transition sequence, all participants must enroll in a Senior Class that explores post-secondary options and includes an ‘external experience’ such as a college class, job, or internship, each youth must take a 12-week Senior Leadership seminar that explores postsecondary options. Youth build strong relationships with adults through a two-stage relationship-based program. Stage one involves working directly with mentors and advocates to forge strong relationships; stage two involves continuing phone contact with the staff advocate and other relevant adult support staff after program participants graduate.

Connecting Activities: Each student is assessed at entry in terms of basic math, reading, and writing skills. Their social asset status is also assessed at entry, after 30 days in the program, and at exit in order to determine change. Each student is assigned an advocate who serves as a case manager to coordinate the student’s Individual Service Plan (ISP). The ISP is reviewed regularly to determine changes necessary based on the progress of the student. Age- and stage-appropriate services and activities are provided for both middle and high school students. In all programs, youth needing individualized attention receive one-on-one tutoring.


Management: The leadership team at Open Meadow has been working together since 1995. This leadership is a key ingredient in the success of both the organization and the students. It supports an innovative and creative culture that empowers all levels of staff to get involved. Staff members are encouraged to participate in community and national policy-making coalition meetings. The staff is intimately involved in improving the school plan and is encouraged to interact with top management. In recruiting staff, Open Meadow looks for evidence of the unwavering belief in the ability of young people to take responsibility for their own lives. Staff members also receive specialized training, as needed.

Collaboration: Open Meadow has many community partners who serve different roles. Some, such as the North Portland Youth Family Center and the Multnomah Education Service District-Pathways Program, provide services to the students. Others, such as Worksystems and The M.J. Charitable Trust, provide funding support. Several others, including the Portland Public Schools and the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, provide funding, technical assistance, and direct support. Two private employers, Standard Insurance and the Providence Health System, provide an array of employment-based services. A number of other community partners provide youth with internships and opportunities for project-based learning. There are over 125 community businesses, non-profits, and government agencies with which Open Meadow has developed relationships.



The following are some of the key outcome data for program year 2002-2003.

Total youth served at Open Meadow 341
High school diploma
– number eligible 24
– number achieved 20
– percent achieved 83%
Number participating in pre-employment activities 203
Number completing occupational skills training 58
Number placed in long-term employment 66

Third-Party Documentation:

  • The Open Meadow program has been accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools since 1976. Accreditation includes an six-year site visit for accreditation practices and standards (most recent site visit 2004).
  • It participates in the State of Oregon CIM, and the Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM).
  • The program meets the State of Oregon Department of Education (ODE) academic requirements and contract academic requirements set forth by Portland Public Schools.
  • Open Meadow was a PEPNet awardee for 2003.
  • Open Meadow received the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Award for 2004


Organization Name: Open Meadow Alternative School
Organization Director: Carole Smith, Executive Director
Program Name: Open Meadow Alternative School
Street Address: 7654 N. Wabash Ave
City: Portland
State: OR

Contact Person: Andrew Mason
Contact Title: Associate Director
Contact E-mail: