What Our Mission Means...

"Marrow aims to empower teens to take ownership over their education, and to foster a community of youth who are visually, socially and culturally literate."

but - what does all that mean?

Ownership Over Your Education

Why do we learn what we learn in traditional school systems? Our communities are diverse - in skills, intellect, interests, learning style - but we are all (more or less) given the same information, in the same ways. Our culture is always changing, but curriculums are not. Things that often feel important to young people - relationships, current events, how to explore and follow their passions, how to get a job - are overlooked. When it’s difficult to see the purpose or relevant real world application behind what you’re learning, it can be difficult to be invested. 

We want to put your education back in YOUR hands. We want you to care about what you’re doing and learning. You should. This is your life. You get one. It doesn’t have to look the way you’ve been told it has to look. We support the teens in our community by providing opportunities to explore the things that aren’t typically offered in school, or to explore those things in more in-depth ways, and from more perspectives. We also provide one-on-one and group mentoring and advising, to help you begin to fill your life with the types of experiences and people that will allow you to build the life that YOU want.

Visual Literacy

Visual literacy is defined as the ability to “interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image”. Even if you aren’t an artist, visual literacy is important. Humans have always used images (drawings, photographs, memes) to communicate, and we believe it’s more important than ever that young people be armed with the ability to navigate through the vast sea of visual information that is being thrown in our faces. When you see an advertisement (on a billboard, in a magazine, on Instagram), who is directing it at you? Why? What is their true intent? So many images are put in front of us now, and so quickly, that sometimes we don’t even take the time to break down what we’re looking at.

We believe visual literacy is at the root of beginning to understand (and question) the world, and who’s “in charge” of the narratives we surround ourselves with. We gain visual literacy by examining these messages around us, looking at and discussing artwork, and exploring how to make our OWN narratives visible through visual storytelling.

Social Literacy

Social literacy is very similar to “emotional intelligence”. It is a person’s ability to build and maintain relationships with others, to navigate through the vast variety of interactions you’ll have in this diverse world, to understand where other people are coming from, and to be able to express your own emotions. As a community-based organization, we believe this is SO important, and it’s a little alarming that it isn’t covered in traditional schools.

We explore social literacy through discussion of current events, engaging with communities outside of our own, and delving into sometimes difficult discussions - which may include family dynamics, healthy relationships, race, gender, and sexuality (just to list a few). We also encourage our members to COLLABORATE! Meet your neighbors, talk to people outside your own interests, there’s almost always unexpected overlap, and it will STRENGTHEN what you’re doing!

Cultural Literacy

Just as visual literacy and social literacy address the ability to examine and interpret visual and social information - cultural literacy is the ability to understand and participate in a culture. It’s less of a learned skill, and more of a willingness to learn the complex web of any culture, including (but not limited to) their history, dialect, belief systems, politics, idiosyncrasies and even jokes (etc etc etc).

Cultural literacy is essential for the growth of empathy and the breakdown of gatekeeping. In a city that is rapidly changing and gentrifying - such as Portland, it is important that we are in open discussion with the communities that have been here the longest, and whose voices are being choked out by new, fast-growing communities. We need to know their stories, their names, what’s important to them. Our communities need to be inconstant dialog, so that we can form one diverse community - rather than a series of communities that are constantly butting up against one another. Cultural literacy aids in this.