Linsey McMurrin, an SEL and Prevention Specialist with Peacemaker Resources, is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. She is program manager of Girls Lead on the Go!, a leadership program for young women, and is an organizer of the Bemidji Area Truth and Reconciliation Initiative, a grassroots effort to promote truth-seeking, healing and change through increasing understanding and building relationships among area indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Linsey is certified by Minnesota Communities Caring for Children as an ACE Interface Presenter. She is a strong advocate of social justice and community driven work, and believes that the development of cultural, social and emotional competencies is integral to our well-being and ongoing success— as individuals, families and communities.
What led you to want to become a certified ACE Interface presenter?
In my role as a Prevention Specialist with Peacemaker Resources, I understand how the development of cultural, social and emotional competencies is integral to our well-being and ongoing success— as individuals, families and communities. Our work enables us to empower all youth by equipping them with the tools needed to successfully navigate the world around them.
As an American Indian woman, I have always felt a great responsibility to my community in everything I do. My life experiences along with those of my family members have contributed to my understanding of how the underlying historical and intergenerational traumas our people have experienced are the root cause of many of the contemporary issues our communities are faced with today. Increasing understanding around these topics both within and beyond our native communities as well as in the broader systems that serve our people is a constant driving force for me.
When I realized that becoming an ACE Interface Presenter would bring together all facets of what informs and drives my work, I knew my purpose had been found. Not only does the ACE Interface curriculum illustrate the implications of the ACE Study and epigenetics along with the brain science behind it, but it also provides a framework for building self-healing communities, to lift up and empower those most affected to be part of the solution. Being an ACE Interface presenter gives me the opportunity to empower people to break the cycles of adversity by recognizing the root causes behind them, and through that knowledge to fully harness the resiliency, strengths and skill sets that are the keys to authentic and lasting individual and community transformation.
How has learning about ACEs impacted you (i.e. in your life and/or in your work)?
As a single mother raising two boys of my own, I have integrated the knowledge into the way I parent. My heightened awareness of the impact of toxic stress on the developing brain has encouraged me to incorporate self-care concepts and implement self-regulation strategies on a daily basis. My older son, a kindergartner, has been trained in on these strategies as well and will remind me when a stressful situation arises that we both need to pause and take some deep breaths so we can get back to the “thinking part of our brain.” I am hopeful he will help me pass those skills down to his baby brother as he grows as well!
Could you give a brief summary of the work you’re doing around ACEs in your community and/or workplace?
Our work at Peacemaker Resources centers around the concept of prevention through increasing competencies in the area of Social-Emotional Learning. The research around ACEs provides further evidence that the approaches we use will bring about lasting impact. We have been working with schools in Northern Minnesota around trauma-sensitive approaches and the information we are able to provide regarding ACEs, epigenetics and historical trauma has been key in shifting perspectives and providing tools to enable teachers and school personnel to better understand, relate to and provide support for the young people they serve.
I also have been honored to assist with Minnesota Communities Caring for Children’s NEAR Science and Tribal Wisdom project in my home community of the Leech Lake Reservation. Being able to provide the knowledge and understanding in our tribal communities and building capacity through training a cohort of ACE Interface presenters from our own community has been especially rewarding. I look forward to the next phases of our project that include building and implementing a culturally responsive and community-driven plan to mitigate the effects of ACEs and interrupt the cycle of intergenerational transmission that will prevent ACEs for future generations.
How have your audiences responded to your presentations? How has your audience been impacted by the curriculum?
One of the most rewarding aspects of doing this work is the conversations that take place after our presentations. Being approached by an audience member who wants to share their story of how ACEs has impacted them and their family, and how they feel empowered after hearing the presentation, is an honor. Many speak to how the information included in our ACE Interface presentation connects the dots to help them understand and explain what they have seen happen in their lives, removing the “shame and blame” mentality and replacing it with a newfound sense of hope. Others speak to a shift in perspective and opportunity for self-awareness, leading them to examine how their own experiences have informed their outlook and the way they respond to others. Hearing how the ACE Interface curriculum has impacted individuals and families in this way solidifies my commitment and belief in the importance of this work.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Enough cannot be said about how impactful a simple shift in perspective can be. When dealing with a seemingly difficult person or especially stressful interaction, keep in mind that we all experience the world in very different ways. For those of us who have experienced toxic stress during development, even a small amount of stress can feel like an overwhelming crisis. Changing the question from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What’s happened to you?” can help remind us of that and result in increased understanding, empathy and compassion in our day to day interactions.