Caldera is known in Sisters Country for their outreach to the arts community through their residency program. Many people don't know that Caldera has one of the deepest outreach programs for kids in Central Oregon.

Since 1996, Caldera has worked to get arts to underserved kids to change their lives. Caldera works with these children from the end of their sixth grade year through high school, their college years, and into their business life beyond. Many of their students live at or below the poverty level.

"Once they're part of the middle school program, they're in all the way through," said Matt Hansink, development director.

Caldera has unique criteria for their selection process.

"We get to work with these kids one-on-one, at a time when they are most at risk," Hansink said. "Some students might be having problems at home, some are good in art, some have low grades."

Where other programs may rule them out, Caldera invites them in.

"We want to open the door that opens all the other doors," states one of their promotional videos.

Founder Dan Wieden, known for the 'Just Do It' slogan developed for Nike, understands the power of developing the creative process.

"Through their creative process, children find their voice," Wieden said. "Once they find their voice, they can contribute to the world."

Caldera started as a summer camp and evolved. They have been a year-round model since 2004 through their in-school programs.

"We reach 10,000 students a year through our extended programs," Hansink said.

Caldera mentors 200 students in 10 middle schools; five in Portland, five in Central Oregon, with the closest being our own Sisters Middle School. The other schools are in Madras, Terrebonne, Redmond and Bend. A teaching artist sponsored by Caldera is in the school every week.

Dozens of different high schools also have a program. Students are bussed to a central location for classes because of the large number of participating high schools.

Caldera's outreach continues into their college years and beyond.

Caldera has developed scholarships for the students and helps them prepare for college. The Maybelle Clark McDonald Fund is one key provider who, at a recent fundraiser, provided $50,000 in matching funds for scholarships.

"Our mentors spend a lot of time with kids preparing scholarship applications," Hansink said. "Now we have 22-year-old adults who were part of our program coming back to volunteer."

If students maintain a B grade average, they get the scholarship. It pays a significant portion of their expenses and stays with them throughout their college years.

Caldera's camp program still shines. Students give themselves a camp name and learn and grow together.

Student Quail of Redmond is in 4-H and raises chickens. She got into the Caldera program because of a drawing she'd done at school for Mother's Day.

"I would have gone down the wrong road if I hadn't gotten involved with Caldera," Quail said.

She recalled her first camp experience, being thrown together with kids from Portland.

"There was such a barrier between people from Portland and people from Redmond," she said. "Just being able to hang out with people from Portland has changed my life. We all changed just because of that one week we spent together fighting over who would get the best bed."

"What makes Caldera unique is that we provide life skills," Hansink said. "Our DNA is as an arts foundation; everything we do is around that. Art is not just a tool; it's what we do. Our priority is to give our kids the best chance of succeeding in life."

Sisters has seen the results of their Hello Neighbor Project in Sisters in 2008 and 2009, where their giant seven-foot banner-size photographs have been displayed throughout town. Young students interview their neighbors and they, or project founder Julie Keefe, take photographs and attach quotes garnered by the students. The project opens the children's world by providing them a unique look at their own neighborhoods.

Caldera has been recognized nationally. They had the honor of receiving grants of $50,000 and $75,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for four of the last five years. Each year there is an emphasis built around a specific program. In 2006 they received an NEA grant for African drumming, in 2007, photography.

This year 14 Caldera students received some valuable lessons in the world of business from Steven Smith of Steven Smith Teas. Smith was a founder of Tazo Tea, which he sold to Starbucks in 1999. Prior to that he was a founder of Stash Tea, which he sold to a Japanese company in 1993.

Caldera students went to the Steven Smith Tea offices in Portland and came up with Caldera Chai, working one-on-one with Smith. The tea is now sold for $15 a box for 15 sachets through the Web site, or their online reseller, www. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this tea goes to Caldera.

Redmond High School freshman Alex Stetler attended Caldera's March fundraiser in Bend.

"When I first started, I wasn't that social," Stetler said. "Now I'm more comfortable with myself and can talk with people. All the activities have helped me grow up more."