Fighting for Relevancy

McCoy Academy steps up in historic King district

7/17/2013, 10:20 a.m.
The 25-year-old resource center fights to maintain its longstanding community support in Portland's minority communities.
McCoy Academy’s Bobby Fouther (second from left) and Carmen Hawkins (second from right), join volunteers at the non-profit’s new Saturday Market venture. McCoy, located at 3802 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., has served Portland as an alternative school and community resource center for 25 years. Photo by

For 25 years McCoy Academy has been responsible for providing community programs that range from the arts to essential education basics to college level courses, and even in-depth financial advice. But a sluggish influx of revenue in recent years has dealt major blows to the academy at 3802 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The resource center known for its outreach to African Americans and others in the King Neighborhood is not taking the hits lying down though; with recent renovations to their building and new attempts at visibility, McCoy program leaders are hoping to rekindle some of the support they have had in previous years.

McCoy is currently home to four non-profits: Young Minds of Awareness, which services special needs people with life skills training; GroundWork Portland, which brings about sustainable, community-led improvement of the physical environment of low-income areas while promoting social justice; McCoy Academy, an alternative high school for adolescents that have not excelled in area schools; and Open Door Gallery, an arts program for students old and young.

Although the organizations in the past may have been housed under the same roof at McCoy they did not always collaborate with one another.

For the last two years, the leaders at McCoy have been assessing how the four programs could better work together to better serve the community. Changes have been made to provide “wraparound services” so that clients can now look to McCoy as a location where a bulk of their essential needs can be taken care of in one space.

“It’s wonderful to have a site, but when you’re all working separately it’s not always about the site and what’s going to happen here. So now we’ve kind of come to a point of collaboration in the services that we want to provide,” says Bobby Fouther who has been with McCoy Academy since 2006, teaching visual arts and dance.

In response to McCoy’s push to unify and revamp, real-estate giant Windermere has already begun painting rooms for McCoy free of charge.

The company’s generous contribution comes with the effort to liven up the 7,762-square-foot space and rent out some of the more dormant rooms to what they hope will be another non-profit.

Though it will end up costing McCoy upwards of $20,000, Windermere will also be helping with the installation of a new dance floor soon.

“With these types of angels, we’ve been able to make those kinds of improvements,” Fouther says.

Completely out-of-pocket, leaders at McCoy also launched a Saturday Market where patrons can sell their homemade good right outside McCoy’s doors and on the main throughway of MLK Boulevard.

After the marketplace was launched in May, YMA director Archie Moore feared they would have to shut it down for low participation, but a slight uptick in involvement and pedestrian foot traffic caused them to extend the Saturday Market another month in hopes of seeing more community participation throughout the entire summer.

One student intern who has been with McCoy for 5 weeks voiced frustration at the low turnout, “I just don’t understand why there wasn’t better turnout, with all the footwork and advertisement we did. There’s been a lot cool stuff here, we’ve had other vendors, but just getting people here has been a challenge.”