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Learn to Earn CEO, Stivers student talk

In September, Learn to Earn Dayton welcomed Kristina Scott as its new CEO. Scott, who relocated to Dayton from Birmingham, Alabama, sat down with Makayla Curington, an Anytown alumnae and sophomore at the Stivers School for the Arts. Their discussion was condensed and edited for clarity.


Makayla: What is your goal for Learn to Earn Dayton? Scott: I want every student in Montgomery County to have every opportunity to have a career, the education they need for that career and a support system to achieve their goals.


Makayla: Have you taken steps to learn the community that you plan to contribute to? Scott: I want to get out and meet with community partners.


I want to see where they work.


I’m trying to figure out how I can listen to people and meet them where they are while also respecting that we’re in a pandemic.


Where do you think I should go? Makayla: Visit our high schools, especially Dayton Public Schools, and speak with students. What pushed you to have such a passion for helping certain communities? Scott: My mom is a retired teacher and she taught in schools that served low-income children.


Listening to her stories and understanding the needs of her students lit the fire in me. Then I majored in history in college and went to law school. That continued to stoke my fire for justice.


If you could wave a magic wand and take away one of the systems that support racism, what would you do? Makayla: I wish I could make people stop thinking that they can’t see color. People say “I don’t see color” or “I don’t judge people in that way.” If you don’t see my color, then you do not see issues the way that I look at them.


There are issues that come with being Black. If you’re not seeing that I’m Black and you’re just saying, “Everyone is the same to me,” you’re saying that we’re all being treated the same. That is not the case.


Scott: Thank you for giving voice to that.


Makayla: I have been thinking about what people like my grandparents will think when they read this. It can be hard to see how a white person in power will help Black children. Black people may see you as a white person with a savior complex.


What’s false about that narrative? Scott: I’m going to keep showing up. I’m going to be consistent in what I say and do. I’m going to listen. This is your community.


For me to do right in my work, I have to do right by the people I am serving. What do you suggest I do to build trust? Makayla: The best thing to do is to get down and be in it. Listen to us. Be around, and don’t just be around because you think it will look good. Sit with us, have a conversation, even if sometimes it’ll seem like you are hearing the most outrageous thing you’ve heard in your life. Just sit there, listen and be patient. What is the best way for Dayton to contribute to Learn to Earn Dayton? Scott: I think about it as give, advocate, volunteer. This work wouldn’t happen without the generosity of donors in Dayton.


We need people to say to students, “You can afford to go to college. Fill out the FAFSA, and you’ll get enough money to go to Sinclair.” Then there’s also policy advocacy to make college more affordable.


Finally, everyone can show up and volunteer. We can all be the public in public education.


Makayla: How can families learn about resources from Learn to Earn Dayton? Scott: The best way to learn about our resources is through nonprofits and schools. That’s what our role is: to be a connector.


I heard a good analogy for this. It’s about making sure that the pipes fit together. We’re the pipe fitter who makes sure that the systems work together. There are too many off-ramps for students and families; it’s too easy to get the runaround. We need to make sure that students and families are at the center of our work. That’s my job — making sure that we’re always advocating for the needs of students and families.


Learn more about Learn to Earn at LearnToEarnDayton.org or follow them on Facebook and Twitter @ LtoED.