I sent Diane Wagenhals and Sandy Bloom what you see in the episode notes and asked if they would support me in starting the PressOn podcast. Although it was not posted first, due to some technical difficulties with the sound file, this was the first episode ever recorded for PressOn. We discuss what the big deal about trauma is, how it impacts our lives, and what we can do moving forward. In this episode, Sandy lays out the question "What is the vision?" - which is a great place to begin.
My first introduction to the vast number of inequities in our world was socioeconomic immobility and injustice. I grew up believing in the myth of the American dream that anyone from anywhere could reach the pinnacle of success if they just worked hard enough. Sheltered by my own privilege the world that I grew up knowing was a meritocracy. This false idea was only reinforced by the success stories I heard about kids who grow up in poverty and went on to make millions of dollars. I had not critically considered how few people this actually happened for.
We should take pride in helping make others lives better, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet our backward society treats life like a zero-sum game. "There's only so many pieces of pie, so if somebody else has success, her beauty, or whatever, somehow it leaves less for you. Or if you can get it, too it's less meaningful if all these other people have." (Lost Connections, 219). To save the future of our world we must undergo a paradigm shift in how we see ourselves, our motivations, each other, and our purpose. As a society we must find ways to promote opportunities for meaningful work that makes everyone's lives better.
Since graduating from Oberlin in 2016, I have made sure that my work positively impacts people in need. I've coached high school age baseball since moving back home, and my first job was a fellowship with the nonprofit 12+ at Hill Freedman World Academy. In my role at the school, I had a great introduction to education serving a variety of functions. From varsity basketball middle school baseball coaching, to college advising and mentorship, to working with students with autism on writing and delivering speeches for the school's Black History Month celebration advocating for their own civil rights, I learned a ton.
My career ambition, since my dreams of playing in the Major Leagues fell by the wayside, has been to someday hold public office. I have never had much interest in conforming to traditional means of running for any office, for a long time I have found the campaign process quite distasteful. I saw education is a different path to my desired goal, and I enrolled in a one-year Master's Program in Educational Leadership at Arcadia. Through that program I was given the opportunity to explore the academic theory behind education, but it was more so my extracurricular activities that help me grow that year. During the summer after my fellowship, while moving to a volunteer position in development for 12+, I was introduced to Rob Reed, the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Josh Shapiro's Office of Public Engagement. There I began working on policy to ameliorate the opioid epidemic, gun violence, and other travesties that cost the state billions of dollars each year. Soon after, I became an assistant varsity coach at my alma mater Upper Dublin High School. Later that year, I also got an internship working on Gov. Tom Wolf's campaign on the finance team.
Most affected by my work at the Attorney General's office, helping to develop a statewide policy that will one day help save thousands of lives through a budding field known as trauma informed care. Supported by evidence from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in the late 1990s (and follow-up research that has been done since), this is a proactive effort that spans all human service industries to help prevent and mitigate the compounding effects of trauma throughout our society. I ultimately wrote my thesis on the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences in the education system and help trauma informed practices would improve long-term educational outcomes.
Upon graduating with my Master's, I got my first full-time job as the Director of Development at North Light Community Center, a social service nonprofit organization that has served the Manayunk and surrounding Philadelphia communities the Great Depression. My boss, Executive Director Irene Madrak, has been in her current role since 1984. In a world infested by selfish interest, it is inspiring to learn from someone who is been in the same role for virtually her entire professional career. The work that we do is great, but given the global doom that looms if we do not act soon, I am not content just succeeding in my current role.
In part, I do hope that by starting a blog and podcast more people will hear about in interact with North Light helping me in my current role; but the main goal for setting out on this journey is to influence public dialogue toward progress to improve the lives of all people. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "it really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly." I cannot be all that I can be until you are also all that you could be. The same, of course, goes for you and everyone else. This is the paradigm shift that must happen in order to save our world.
This is not a zero-sum game, we live in a world of excess wear billion starving poverty. You can have all you need without my giving up more than I would receive in return. Investment in this way would make us all wealthier and in different ways than are currently fathomable.
Trauma informed care is one way to invest in future dollars created-from better public health outcomes, to better educational outcomes, to better economic outcomes, to a more just "criminal justice" system-the faults in our current system that ultimately cost global society trillions of dollars, if fixed, would free up all of those dollars to be invested elsewhere. The same could be said for renewable energy, artificial intelligence, and other efforts that modernize our world and increase efficiency, ensuring sustainability for future life.
What I fear most, perhaps, is that people are giving up on things possibly getting better someday. I am not certain that my efforts will be successful, but I am sure that if nothing is done future generations will be faded to a doomed life, if there is any life for them to live at all. What makes the most hopeful is that I am not alone. There are a group of incredible people who work very hard to make the world a better place as well. I want to create collaboration amongst such optimistic people, or at least become a part of such a conversation, and change the narrative in our nation from one of hatred to one of love.
Imagine the children that we will produce if we spread such a mentality. Rather than the chaos and dysfunction that we see in our world today, we will see beauty and brilliance change the landscape of our world. There is no effort more worthwhile than to make the world better place, and that's all have ever wanted to do.