Central City Concern creates scholarships for employees to attend PSU
Author: Steve Beaven, PSU Foundation
Posted: February 27, 2015

Central City Concern, a Portland-based social service agency, has established four annual scholarships for its employees at Portland State University.

The scholarships, for $2,500 each, are part of Central City Concern’s ongoing efforts to provide career development services for more than 700 employees. Roughly half of the people who work at Central City Concern are living in recovery and many have worked their way through its rehabilitation programs to earn full-time jobs at the agency.

“We really view our employees as part of our mission,” said Rebecca Birenbaum, Central City Concern’s chief compliance and administrative officer. “It’s not just about keeping them employed. It’s about helping them reach their higher potential.”

Central City Concern provides housing, employment services, healthcare, addiction treatment and peer support for more than 13,000 people each year. The agency also owns about 30 properties, many of which include affordable housing.

The agency began working on the scholarship project with the PSU Foundation in December. To be eligible, employees must be working at least 20 hours and taking at least six hours of classes per term. The first recipients will be named in April.

Central City Concern is the second employer in recent months to establish scholarships at PSU for its staff. Pizzicato Pizza announced last year they will aid up to 10 of their employees per academic year with tuition, fees and/or living expenses.

Both scholarship programs are part of the Creating Futures campaign for student scholarships, in which the PSU Foundation is raising $50 million to support deserving students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college and would otherwise lack the means to earn a degree.

The recipients of the Central City Concern scholarships will not be required to take classes in certain disciplines related to their jobs, such as social work or public health.

“If somebody wants to go to school for the work we’re doing, that would be awesome,” said Alex Cook, a training and development specialist at Central City Concern. “But we are not requiring that. We want people to go to school for what they want to.”

Central City Concern is funding the scholarships through its education budget, not via private donations. Birenbaum said that ultimately the agency would like to expand its scholarship offerings and provide funds for licensure programs.

“Our hope would be to make this as big as we can,” she said, “and offer it to as many employees as we can.”