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Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz: Solving Poverty in Your Local Community ( & Commentary


Cissy's note: This is a great podcast for parents, educators, and community organizers and change makers. It is an interview with @Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz interviewed by Danny Bowers "Sunshine" of Better Leaders Better Schools.

solving poverty

Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz  says things like, "We all need each other. Everyone here is important," and "The community is who we are," but they aren't inclusive-sounding platitudes. She is a tireless optimist but also understands, personally and professionally, how "soul-crushing" poverty and trauma are and that we don't solve our problems alone but with others and in community where she says, "Those closest to the pain should be closest to the power." 

"I'm really big on shoulder to shoulder projects with parents, teachers, kids, and getting unusual voices to the actual game," she said and speaks about how entire communities can change, when anchored in school systems that partner with kids, parents, educators and middle-class partners to break generational trauma and poverty. This isn't an academic interest area Rebecca has. It's an experience she, her mom and her kids all had and what she is currently doing now in her work with over ten different schools.

Rebecca was a presenter at the ACEs Conference last month. She spoke in a session about power sharing and survivor-led "shoulder-to-shoulder" leadership, and how drawing on direct experience, a phrase @Louise Godbold, to replace "lived experience" is one of the most effective approaches for making policy, systems, and trauma-responsive change. Rebecca discusses similar things in this podcast and how there's no personal and professional or us and them divide but communities working together for the wellness of all. While this podcast is geared towards educators it's relevant for all of us in the ACEs movement.

Here are just a few of the things Rebecca said in this podcast.

Life Before the Poverty Project

"I was homeless, high school drop out, no car, no job, no money and pregnant with my first baby. Had no idea how to be a mom so I knew I had to do something different."

"Poverty and stress were always pretty profound growing up for me."

"Poverty, the bone soul crushing weight of poverty, chaos, survival was crushing up against me."  

"I bumped up against a poverty project by accident."

About Meeting Curious Middle-Class Women Who Asked HER for Help

I'm in a trailer park. I had 3 kids by 3 different dads. All these addictions in my background. Just a mess.... Here's this invitation to go to this poverty project with all these middle-class people and I was terrified...

They (middle-class women) took us (8 other moms) to a room and they said, "Look, here's the deal, we see families struggling in our community and we think poverty is the root cause of it and we want to solve it and  we need people like you who are living it to tell us how to do it. Instantly, they disarmed me and they empowered me."

Rebecca shares that she, her mom, and her kids get out of generational poverty and then this is the work that becomes her calling and career.

Ending Generational Trauma & Poverty Starts with Connecting

"At some point teachers became interested in me in my own community."

"What I figured out along the way is most educators are generationally middle-class. They love the kids but a lot of the time they bring their middle-class strategies with them to work with these families. And they end up kind of like they are beating their heads against a wall. At some point a company called Essdack found me and started having me do professional development with schools around poverty and trauma."

Having education get close to these parents in a different way than they've done before.

Paradigm Shift

"Finally, at age 37, someone finally said, "Hey, we see you, we hear you and we're with you and we want to know what you need from us. And what we can do together vs. I think that's our just fatal mistake we make is we want to fix poor people or fix this population or fix that population but we've not taken the time to go get close to them and say, 'Hey, what do you need us to know about what's happening and what do you need from us?" 

Again, here's the link to the podcast. We'll share more from the Power With panel Rebecca spoke in at the ACEs 2018 National Conference in coming weeks. Rebecca co-presented with @Louise Godbold and @Leonard Tshitenge.


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