Kids: Can't Beat 'Em? Join 'Em!

Youth is apparently not being wasted on the kids of Oregon. What a great time to be young in this state! The school year has been chopped down by 15 days, which means summer vacation is three weeks longer. How cool is that?

But there is no reason to wait until June for the fun to start. This week is loaded with exciting youth-oriented events that are fun for all ages.

The only state in the nation to have a high school snowboard association, Oregon hosts 250 racers and tricksters this weekend on Mt. Hood. Friday is the timed boardercross racing--an exhilarating event in which the winner is determined by who can straight up haul ass down the mountain the fastest. On Saturday, the tricksters strut their stuff--jumping, railing, and corkscrewing aerials at Timberline. (Friday, Mt Hood Meadows, Hwy 26 East, 10 am, free; Saturday, Timberline, Hwy 26, 10 am, free; 246-9680.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the annual state basketball championships pit top stars and squads from around the state--in particular, local superstars from Jefferson and Lincoln. Over the past several years, Oregon's high schools have been a launching pad for some of the nation's top college players. These two days are a showcase of gravity-defying talent. (Memorial Coliseum, One Center Court, 235-8771, 1:30 pm & 7 pm Tuesday, 9 am, 1:30 pm, 7 pm Wednesday, $4-$10)

This week there are also two great opportunities to reach out and help Portland's kids, while also having fun. With the state hemorrhaging money on retirement funds and medicine for elderly people, sadly there is little money left for arts and sports for our state's healthy and creative children. To help fill in this funding gap, the Urban Grind Coffeehouse is sponsoring a benefit on First Thursday for DaVinci middle school. The ongoing display, "Storytelling Through Photography," curates photos from sixth, seventh and eighth graders, donating twenty percent of food and drink sales to DaVinci's art program. (2214 NE Oregon, 546-0649, 6-9 pm)

To encourage a more lasting donation to youth and arts, Write Around Portland (WRAP) is hosting a volunteer training seminar on Wednesday. (917 SW Oak, Suite 406, 796-9224, 7:30 pm) WRAP reaches out to low-income youth, using weekly writing seminars with volunteer instructors to help kids articulate their inner voices. Each volunteer hosts a ten-week seminar during the summer. PHIL BUSSE