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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Expert says Springfield Has What it Takes to Become National Example for Combating Poverty

Dr. Ruby Payne speaks at Hammons Hall: Photo Credit-Theresa Bettmann
Dr. Ruby Payne speaks at Hammons Hall: Photo Credit-Theresa Bettmann

During public remarks Wednesday, Dr. Ruby Payne told a packed Hammons Hall audience that the Springfield community can be a model for assisting the less fortunate and minimizing the poverty level.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann attended the session and has this report.

Teachers, social workers, students, and business owners were among the various groups represented during Dr. Payne’s speech on the Missouri State campus Wednesday. An author, educator, and expert in the field of poverty, Payne says the first step is creating a “future story” for Springfield, using statistics and information from the Community Focus Report, to engage more people in creating a dialogue for future goals. 

“You have all the pieces.  You’ve got the natural resources, people, drive, intellectual and social capital.   You have all of the pieces to be a national model of how a community can thrive,” Payne says.

Payne’s visit was made possible through the collaboration of 13 community organizations, that she says need to work toward getting more men in the work place, invite people who’ve experienced poverty to participate on boards and committees, and identify areas to track to assess measurement over the next five years.   

And then at the end of that five years, you want to start lobbying for legislative policy and change. Because then at the state level you will begin know the barriers are to making the changes you want to make, and some of those are legislative policy,” Payne says.

One of the most important things about minimizing poverty in a community, Payne explains, is to understand the reality for those who experience it.  She cautions it is easy for those living with middle-class values to have good intentions but not understand the bigger picture.

Payne equates the reality of poverty to that of a natural disaster, with people living in survival mode being unable to think and plan for the future.  In an interview with KSMU last week, Payne explains that  if changes are going to take place, both sides have to be taught to understand things about the other side’s world.  

“If you were in poverty your resources are unstable, if you’ve been there two generations or more, you have a different problem.  Your problem is you don’t have material security.  You spend your time at survival.  Relationships keep you alive and entertainment takes away the pain,” Payne says.

Payne defines poverty is a lack of access to resources, but that money alone will not cure the bigger problem.

“There’s only three things that will move you; transition you out of poverty. One is education.  The second one is employment.  And the third one is social bridging capital—which is people different than you are—they give you a different way to think.  What money does is it moves you past survival,” says Payne.

Spokespersons for the Junior League of Springfield and Care to Learn say Payne’s visit is vital in the fight to reverse the poverty trend in the city.  Payne’s engagement Wednesday wrapped up a three-day tour of Springfield.  

Theresa received her undergraduate degree in sociology at Missouri State University, as well as her Master's degree in Social Work at MSU. Theresa enjoys writing, drawing, reading, music, working with animals, and most of all spending time with her family. She wishes to continue to use her experiences, combined with her pursuit of education, to foster a sense of empowerment and social awareness in the community. Theresa loves working with KSMU and attributes her passion for NPR, and love of learning, to her father.
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