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Portland Youth Tackle Political Polarization With National Dialogue Project


40 students from Oregon City and Portland-area high schools gathered for a discussion about "What Makes America Great (And Not Great) For You."

40 students from Oregon City and Portland-area high schools gathered for a discussion about “What Makes America Great (And Not Great) For You.”

Sage Van Wing/OPB

Students from Oregon City High School recently welcomed their peers from Catlin Gabel, Wilson and De La Salle North high schools in Portland, to discuss their perspectives on “What Makes America Great And Not Great For You?” The national dialogue project was started by a small group of students at the Portland high schools for a project known as Winterim. Their goal, as Catlin Gabel juniors Luke Van Buskirk and Bailey Sneed told “Think Out Loud,” was to start to address the extreme political polarization they saw, particularly after the 2016 presidential election. Van Buskirk:

“Today in America, it’s manifested that people just aren’t speaking to people who don’t think like themselves. And I think that’s a pretty big problem.”

Odalys Camacho says she's heard "build the wall" and "make America great again" in the halls at Oregon City High School.

Odalys Camacho says she’s heard “build the wall” and “make America great again” in the halls at Oregon City High School.

Sage Van Wing/OPB

Hundreds of responses poured in from around Oregon and in states all over the country. Students submitted one minute videos from Portland, Boardman, Coquille, Rainer, Riddle Grants Pass, Murphy, Klamath Falls, Williams, Oregon City, and Echo. Beyond Oregon, the videos came in from as far away as New York and Hawaii, and from Virginia, North Carolina, California, Idaho, Colorado, and Indiana.

The discussion at Matt Miller’s Oregon City high school shop class was designed to hear from the students present, but also to get reaction to some of the views from students around the country. Catlin Gabel junior Bailey Sneed says creating a platform for young people to be able to connect about issues was one of the students’ main goals.

As part of the Winterim project, the students are also creating a guide for facilitating conversations between people who don’t necessarily see the world the same way.

Students from Oregon City High School recently welcomed their peers from Catlin Gabel, Wilson and De La Salle North high schools in Portland, to discuss their perspectives on “What Makes America Great And Not Great For You?”

Special thanks to The CENTER’s George Zaninovich, Catlin Gabel’s Krystal Wu, and her husband Matt Miller at Oregon City High School.

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