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Clackamas County drop-in center, open since 2011, has trained peer-support specialists on site to support youth to achieve their goals

Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon, a statewide, youth-led organization working to empower young people as they navigate their paths to adulthood, will hold its first Empowerment Gala on Sept. 30.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Milwaukie youth involved in the Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon leadership program are pictured above at the Star Wars-themed Children's Mental Health Day event. "The money raised at the gala will be used to expand our programming at this drop-in center and around the state," said Maria Hermsen, program manager of the Clackamas County site on 21st Avenue in Milwaukie.

"Thanks largely to donations and fundraising, we underwent a huge remodel here in Clackamas about a year ago, and we were recently able to open a new drop-in center in Coos Bay. All the funds raised will directly impact our ability to serve at-risk youth and advocate for system change."

The event is taking place at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St., in Portland, a space known for its breathtaking murals, unique architecture and floating dance floor.

A silent auction from 5 to 6:45 p.m. will precede a 7 p.m. catered dinner; this will be followed by dancing and live entertainment by Portland's own Dancehall Days.

"It's a great opportunity to have an amazing night out while supporting a great cause. There will also be a keynote speech by Scott Bryant-Comstock, president/CEO of the Children's Mental Health Network," Hermsen said.

To purchase tickets, donate or become a sponsor visit youthmoveoregon.org/events.

Motivating youth

M.O.V.E. stands for Motivating Others Through Voices of Experience, and the organization is unique in that it uses peer-support specialists.

"Our Clackamas County drop-in center has been open since 2011. We have trained peer-support specialists on site to support youth to achieve their goals and advocate for themselves in the systems they are involved in," Hermsen said.

Staff members at the site are all young adults who have experienced what the youth are going through. Many of the young people who visit the site have dealt with mental health issues, addiction and recovery, juvenile justice and/or foster care, Hermsen said.

"We work one-on-one to offer youth support and get them connected to resources and also run leadership and support groups, host events and go on outings," she said.

The center is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located across the street from Milwaukie High School, near the MAX Orange Line stop.

"Any youth from 14 to 25 is eligible for membership, and there is no cost. On site, we have a computer lab, a movie theater, a pool table, a virtual reality room with an HTC Vive VR headset, a cafe with snacks, and an internship program to help youth gain supported job experience," Hermsen said.

She added, "All of these are available for youth who are active in our program. We strive to make sure every youth who comes in can feel safe, connected and have a sense of belonging."

Celebrate youth

What: Empowerment Gala, to benefit Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon. Funds raised will benefit the YMO drop-in centers, including the one in Milwaukie, at 11097 S.E. 21st Ave.

When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30

Where: McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St., Portland

More: Visit youthmoveoregon.org/

Contact: For more information about the Milwaukie drop-in site, call Maria Hermsen, program manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

History: Since 2009, YMO has served thousands of young people between the ages of 14 and 25. YMO's innovative approach, cutting edge drop-in centers, peer-support services, leadership trainings, and school crisis-response team provide unmatched support to the most vulnerable and underserved youth populations throughout Oregon

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