Salem-Keizer Public Schools is partnering with members in the community to provide a series of learning sessions throughout the 2021-22 school year. These sessions are currently held online and are open to the public. 

The second Community Learning Session is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, January 31 and will be hosted by Salem-Keizer School Board Chair Osvaldo Avila and SKPS Director of Student Equity, Access and Advancement Cynthia Richardson. 

The online-only session includes an interactive presentation celebrating Black history in our state. Panelists include McKay Senior Grace Caldwell, who also serves as the student advisor to the school board,  Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick, Oregon Black Pioneers President Willie Richardson and Gwen Carr who served on the board of the Oregon Black Pioneers for close to 20 years.

The event will be hosted on Zoom and will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with time for questions from attendees. 

American sign language interpretation will be available. Please use the registration form to make a request for language interpretation.

Registration link

Panelist bios

Grace Caldwell

Grace Caldwell

Grace is currently a senior at McKay High School and serves as Salem-Keizer’s second student advisor to the school board. She represents the voices of nearly 40,000 students. Outside of her district responsibilities, she is active in her school’s community. She enjoys competing in tennis, singing in the McKay Concert Choir and acapella group and drawing cartoons. Grace has plans to attend a four-year university and study political science.

Willie Richardson

Willie Richardson

Willie Richardson and her spouse of fifty years, Thomas, moved with their family to Salem in 1978. Mrs. Richardson was employed with the State of Oregon from 1978 to 1991 where she held several positions. In 1993 she opened Willie’s Fashion Hats and More and in 2003 the store became A Time for Elegance, a retail shop  for women’s formal wear. She retired from the retail business in 2010 to pursue her love and passion of sharing the rich history of African American contributions and culture with Oregon.  

Since 2004, Willie has served as chairperson of Oregon Black Pioneers where she actively researches and documents the history of African Americans and their contributions to the development of the State of Oregon. Their  contributions are recognized, honored and shared with the broader community in a variety of ways. 

A major accomplishment is that she is the first and only African American who has served on the Salem-Keizer School Board.

Gwen Carr

Gwen Carr

Gwen served on the board for the Oregon Black Pioneers for close to 20 years and is now on it’s Emeritus Board. In her role, she developed exhibits, displays, and provided presentations for schools, colleges, historical societies, and civic organizations. She has curated four exhibits on Oregon’s black history at the Oregon Historical Society Museum in Portland and one displayed at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural History and Culture. She was primary researcher, writing contributor and project manager for the organization’s book, Perseverance:  A History of African Americans in Oregon’s Marion and Polk Counties, published in 2011.

Senator Lew Frederick

Lew Frederick, State Senator, Oregon District #22

Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick first took office on October 30, 2009 during a swearing-in ceremony as an appointed representative from House District 43. In 2016, he was elected to Senate District 22, representing most of north and northeast Portland. Professionally, he is a Strategic Communications Consultant, focusing on Strategic Planning, Community Relations, Science/Technical issues and Media Crisis Communications. Senator Frederick is a former board member of the Oregon State Board of Education, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Born in Pullman, WA, he has only Alaska to visit to reach all 50 states. He grew up in the South, Midwest and New England and went to college in Indiana (Earlham College). He’s a PhD candidate at Portland State University and has studied at MIT, Morehouse, and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratories.

Senator Frederick’s experiences as a youth in the 1960s with his parents during the Civil Rights Movement anchor his commitment to service and making people’s lives better. His legislative focus is on justice in public safety, education, and economic security, “quality of life” issues for Senate District 22 and beyond. With an academic background in biology, theater, and political science, his professional life has included seventeen years as a television reporter at KGW-Channel 8 in Portland, thirteen years as the Director of Public Information for the Portland Public Schools, teacher, actor and ranch-hand.