New Learn To Earn CEO Takes Helm During Pandemic
Learn to Earn Dayton, the education advocacy group, has a new CEO. Kristina Scott is a longtime nonprofit leader, and she’s taking the helm of Learn to Earn at a time when education has been upended by the pandemic. In this interview, Scott tells WYSO’s Jerry Kenney that Learn to Earn is working harder than ever to keep young people engaged and give them at shot at success as part of an educated workforce.
Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):
Jerry Kenney: Christina, your previous work was with Alabama Possible, an organization that battled systemic poverty. Tell us about that group and how it has prepared you for your new role with Learn to Earn.
Kristina Scott: When I was working in Birmingham, Alabama, I worked at a statewide nonprofit organization that helped break down barriers to multigenerational poverty in Alabama, which is the nation's fifth poorest state. And through our work with higher education institutions, policymakers and communities of faith, we realized that one of the biggest barriers to success was Alabama's lack of a college going culture. It really launched us into working statewide with educators and policymakers, and that work really led my paths to cross with Tom Lasley, who is the former CEO of Learn to Earn Dayton.
And, when I saw that he was stepping back and there was a search for a new CEO, I knew that this is a position I was really interested in. It's an opportunity to work, not across the state, but in a community, and Dayton is really known for its ability to collaborate across sectors and break down silos. It was an opportunity to work from birth all the way to career and really focus on the entire journey to, and through education for students and their families.
JK: So, you were aware of Learn to Earn before you came to Dayton?
KS: Yes. Learn to Earn Dayton is known nationally for its work along the cradle-to-career pipeline, and Dayton is known for how well different sectors collaborate together to really lift up community outcomes. And so, when the opportunity arose to come here, I turned to my husband and said, ‘What do you think about moving to Dayton, Ohio?’ And he said, ‘Let's go for it.’ And 10 months later, here I am.
JK: The coronavirus has completely upended education systems and the labor force, so with that in mind, what are some of the most important initiatives learn to earn is working on right now?
KS: Well, we have partnered with philanthropy in the Dayton community, with foundations and companies, with the school systems and with other community partners to ensure that every Montgomery County child who needs a device and a hotspot, and [Learn to Earn] is getting them chromebooks and a mobile hotspot, and the mobile hotspot has Internet service through early 2021.
And so, when COVID hit and schools closed and then went remote, one of the biggest challenges is that so many families did not have adequate devices for their children. It's one thing to share a laptop or a computer to do homework on, and it's another thing when you're doing school all day on your device. So, what we were able to leverage partnerships between the funding community, private business, and public agencies in order to meet that need and really ensure that there is no equity challenges with the digital divide in Montgomery County.
JK: Very well, and before we wrap up, I'm kind of interested in what your thoughts are about Dayton, the city and its people so far since you've moved here.
KS: Well, moving during a pandemic is very interesting, and so we haven't been able to get out as much as we might under normal circumstances. But everyone I’ve talked to here is so welcoming, and Dayton is really a great size city. It's big enough that you've got the resources of a large city, but small enough that it's a very easy town to navigate. And so, we've been here for about five weeks now. I feel very much at home and I really look forward to getting out and to learning more about the city and its history and its incredible people.
JK: Christina Scott is the new CEO of Learn to Earn Dayton. Christina, we thank you so much for your time with us today.
KS: Thank you so much.