Workshop addresses complex issues of Routt County’s working poor
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was about 12 years ago when Lina Grant found herself on her own with two babies, not much education and no support from her ex-husband.
“Steamboat’s a rough place to be” in a situation like that, Grant said. “At that point, I had a 19-month-old and a 3-month-old … you’re in survival mode.”
But thanks to what was then called Routt To Work and one of its mentors, Grant managed to dig herself out of poverty, eventually offering mentorship to others.
“It helped me set a budget, get out of debt and set goals of continuing my education,” Grant said. “But I don’t want everybody to think it’s a quick fix.”
That’s why she encourages everyone to attend an upcoming “Talk It Up” event on Friday, March 6, hosted by Routt to Work, now called Routt To Success.
In fact, one of the country’s leading scholars on advancing social equity and inclusion will be heading up the half-day workshop, which will be held from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs’ Allbright Auditorium.
In an effort to help people advance economically, Talk It Up is aimed at offering training and education to employers, nonprofit workers, civil servants, volunteers and other residents.
For Routt County, 30% of adults do not meet self-sufficiency standards, due in large part to the high cost of living, said Routt to Success Coordinator Beth Lavely.
Routt to Success’s core programming supports residents by connecting them with resources, support and opportunity to develop skills needed to reach goals related to self-sufficiency. Routt to Success pays particular attention to residents who are struggling to meet basic needs and average working residents who manage to get by but are not eligible for some community services.
This year’s Talk it Up event is an opportunity to bring all residents together, Lavely said.
Sociologist Dr. Abby Ferber, a professor of sociology and women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, will facilitate the event. Dr. Ferber will help attendees look into the community’s challenges and strengths by using an “intersectional lens” and will particularly look at how poverty affects the whole community.
In the words of organizers, “everyone loses, when the entire community is not thriving, and the event will allow us to examine what is happening and what we can do differently together.”
If the word “intersectionality” sounds like scholar-speak, well, it is. First coined by a black feminist law professor in 1989, intersectionality tries to understand how one’s social and political identities, like gender, race, class, sexuality and ability, combine to create unique modes of discrimination.
For example, a poor black person will likely have different experiences relating to sexism on the job than a person from a wealthy white upbringing.
“Dr. Ferber is one of the first theorists to integrate the study of inequity with that of intersectionality,” Lavely said.
Lavely said ideas from the workshop can be integrated immediately into improving community issues at attendees’ workplaces, homes and organizations.
What: Routt to Success’ annual Talk It Up event led by Dr. Abby Ferber
When: 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 6
Where: Allbright Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1245 Crawford Ave.
Cost: Free; RSVP to Beth Lavely at email@example.com or call 970-870-5291 by March 3
“Our program wants to see people move from surviving to thriving, and we need everyone working together to see this happen,” Lavely said. “To really leverage community, however, we have to recognize and address that not everyone starts from the same place.”
And no one knows that better than Grant, who experienced poverty both as a child and as an adult thrown into single motherhood.
She started out as a sales associate with the LiftUp Thrift Store and is now a manager at the organization’s Donation Center. She’s also 27 credits away from earning her bachelors in business administration.
“I couldn’t do it alone,” Grant said. “With continued mentorship from Routt to Success, I stay active with the group and share my testimony to give people hope that it can be done.”
While many may not see how diverse Routt County really is when compared to bigger cities, Lavely said Dr. Ferber’s expertise can help attendees look at the community’s varied identities to help pave a way toward greater understanding. She notes that looking at intersectionality not only offers an understanding of systems of privilege but provides the opportunity to see how one might truly leverage the power of the entire community.
“This event offers us a way to look at what’s happening in our community in a different way. It will add some depth for people not familiar with these issues,” Lavely added.
Routt to Success is coordinated by Routt County Human Services, Routt County United Way and LiftUp of Routt County. Talk It Up includes breakfast. For more information, contact Beth Lavely at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-870-5291. A RSVP is not required to attend.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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