Cradle to Career | The Source Weekly - Bend

Cradle to Career

Better Together works to assist children and families

While most charitable organizations have a narrow focus or client base, one nonprofit in Central Oregon works in Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties to help children from birth until they go to college.

"Better Together is a collaborative organization. We work with schools, nonprofits, and with other agencies to try an improve the way we provide those services so that we can get better education and career outcomes," says Doug Mercer with Better Together.

Better Together operates with one full-time staff member, Executive Director Katie Condit, and four AmeriCorps VISTA members. The nonprofit has four strategic areas in which it works to support children and families in the Central Oregon area.

Through early learning initiatives—which include making sure young children have access to healthcare—Better Together also supports families by integrating them in schools through community organizations. The organization also helps students find mentors and assists high school students by connecting them with the best secondary education options—whether it be college or career training—ultimately preparing them for living-wage careers.

"So we work cradle to career trying to advance educational outcomes and career outcomes," says Mercer. One major area Mercer is focusing on right now is the organization's Latino Success Initiative.

By working with the Latino Community Association, Better Together is evaluating an after-school program that has been going on for 10 years.

"They have moms come in and teach Spanish literacy after school to the [English Language Learner] kids, and they have this really strong belief that the kids who are doing that are commensurably improving their English language literature in school," says Mercer.

The nonprofit is currently working to develop a program called Future Accounts.

"[It's] something we are getting set up right now and this is the idea," Mercer says. "We want every third grader in three counties to start an education account that will be devoted to college, and if the family puts in money, it will be 100 percent matching," he says.

For the holidays, one of Better Together's partners needs basic necessities. "[Family Access Network] serves families living in poverty with children," says Executive Director Katie Condit. "This year specifically they need alarm clocks with batteries included, new waterproof gloves and boots of all sizes, gift cards for food/gasoline/clothing, diapers—sizes 4/5—and wipes."

Because Better Together has multiple partnerships with community organizations who need help, their website is a great resource to see which local organizations need extra help during the holiday season: