Shovels in the dirt at Roosevelt High School a sign that years of effort are making a difference

Roosevelt's condemned football stands, and track, circa 2008

There are compelling stories around every corner at North Portland’s Roosevelt High School.

In 2007, I reported that school officials were concerned about hosting a long-awaited state playoff game in boys basketball. Student tickets cost $5, you see, and Roosevelt students didn’t have it in their pockets. So for two days, people dropped off enough bills at the school so that students could watch their team play and earn a spot in the state tournament.

The Oregonian’s Steve Duin adopted the school, and the effort to save it, as a recurring series. His story about the girls basketball team’s final game of the 2009 season was brilliant.

The football program produced enough stories in 2009 to become an ESPN Outside The Lines feature, expertly written by Tom Friend.

The effort put forth by SouthLake Church of West Linn, of former principal Deborah Peterson, of development director Rich Recker, of coaches like Robert Key and Christian Swain, of Nike’s Michael Bergmann, of Norm Daniels and Michael Schrunk and many, many more is truly one of the most uplifting stories in Portland.

TRAC, which stands for Teddy Roosevelt Athletic Complex, is moving forward. The field is being prepped for a new FieldTurf, with the hope that the new football field will be ready for the Homecoming Game this fall. A new track will follow, and Roosevelt (which is less than a mile from the track-less University of Portland) will have a state of the art facility and the ability to host a meet next spring.

It’s progress at a school that has fallen on hard times, the epicenter of a decayed neighborhood.

The leadership that has shepherded this movement believes whole-heartedly that Roosevelt can be a beacon of hope and a community’s rallying point.

Two years ago, Karl Keska volunteered his time to Roosevelt in order to build enthusiasm for cross country. It was a short-lived experiment. Keska, a former Oregon All-American, returned to school.

But the experiment was worthwhile, and someone else will pick it up. Because even though there will be steps backward (such as Recker’s layoff by the school district), the momentum can’t be stopped.

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