CEO Bettie Kirkland, has led Project Return for 10 years. Founded in Nashville in 1979, Project Return is a Tennessee nonprofit dedicated to helping people successfully return to the community after incarceration and avoid recidivism. It has helped thousands of men and women find employment and establish stable lives, all while maintaining its inclusive, productive relationships with its program participants, employment partners and supporters. In 2021, Project Return program participants had an 82% job acquisition rate with only a 13% recidivism rate compared to state and national averages exceeding 50%.
When Project Return, recently opened a new office in Chattanooga, the milestone was celebrated with a reception featuring these remarks its CEO.
“Our mission is to provide necessary, impactful reentry services for our program participants who have chosen to improve their own lives and communities,” said Kirkland. “Our decision to expand our services to Chattanooga was inspired by the strong support we received from local leaders, including state legislators, the city and county mayors’ offices, and the business community.”
Hear Bettie Kirkland discuss the harsh reality that people face when they are released from incarceration as well as the benefits of second chance hiring in addressing racial inequity.
1. Who are Project Return participants?
2. How does the work of Project Return contribute to the community?
3. What role do Project Return’s social enterprises play?
Jed Mescon is a relationship builder, brand ambassador, dynamic speaker, creative thinker, persuasive communicator, veteran fundraiser, and community advocate. He is well known in Chattanooga having served as the host of the radio talk show Chewin the Chatt and as the morning news anchor for WRCB-TV.
Jed is a leader in the Jewish community of Chattanooga and serves on many nonprofit boards. He is passionate about connecting with people to find stories that need telling; creating ideas with the potential to spark change, and energizing the narrative to activate support for the greater good.
Rudy J. Ortega, Jr. is the Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. Rudy steers the continuing efforts of the Tribe’s missions of protecting the rights of Fernandeño Tataviam as Native American people and plays a supportive role with the Tribe’s non-profit, Pukúu Cultural Community Services (Pukúu) to provide community programs to Native Americans living in the Los Angeles County.
Hear Rudy speak about…
1. The First Peoples of northern Los Angeles County: the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians? (Tribal history)
2. Navigating our status as a State recognized tribe in one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas that are our homelands? (Tribal visibility, sovereignty, governance)
3. The challenge of federal recognition. How long has our Tribe been fighting for it and what does the process look like?
Dr. Nagwan R. Zahry is assistant professor of communication at U. of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Originally from Egypt where she was a Sr. Program Manager for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Midwest Universities Consortium, Nagwan got her PhD from Michigan State U. in media and information. After graduation, she became an assistant professor of communication and in 2018, she joined UTC where she teaches social media marketing, public relations, media and diversity. Her research focuses on science communication, health communication and persuasive messaging.
Hear the discussion:
1- What are some of your research findings that surprised you?
2- would you elaborate more on your media and diversity course?
3- Does your research areas change overtime? If so, why?
And learn how to counteract scientists’ negative stereotypes as governors try to communicate empathy during Covid-19.
Angela McIver founded Trapezium Math, an after-school math program after completed PhD at the U. of Pennsylvania with dissertation: Understanding the Numerical Reasoning of Middle School Students. She has interviewed children all over the country about their understanding of basic math concepts and develops math materials that are both engaging and confidence-building for young children. Trapezium provides ways to teach challenging math to very young children through Trapezium Math Club®, Trapezium Math at Home® and Trapezium Math for Schools®. Trapezium gives students, parents and teachers the tools they need to build fearless, confident math learners.
As part of their curriculum, Trapezium launched the Real American Families project to celebrate the country’s diversity, especially the many faces and lifestyles that define the modern American family.
Hear the discussion:
1. Why math education needs to change in America.
2. How families can help their own children build strong math foundations.
3. How important it is to include diverse representation in math education.
Carmelo Piazza (Carmelo the Science Fellow) is the Founder of the Brooklyn Preschool of Science. He is a Brooklyn born educator who taught for the Department of Education for 17 years and is now the owner of three independent science based preschools.
The Brooklyn Preschool of Science is an inquiry-based interdisciplinary school that uses play to holistically connect subject areas. The school aims to excite young kids about learning and engage their innate curiosity about the world. The school features a living wall of plants, a 300-gallon fish tank, and a multitude of living creatures that reside in the classrooms.
Carmelo talks about the value of teaching preschoolers math/science as early as 2-3 years old and discuss how science is the only true way to bridge the gap of inequality in education.
Hear the conversation about equity in education from these experts based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This podcast is part of the ADR Black-Jewish Dialogues.
Ardena Garth Hicks: Education Activist
Ardena is a Hamilton County native and practicing attorney who is the 2020 Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. She is a member of the Hamilton County Partnership Network Board of Directors, appointed by TN Education Commissioner Candace McQueen. The Partnership’s charge is to “review the progress of the five schools in the Partnership Network- which have been deemed priority schools by the state…and make recommendations to the Hamilton County Board of Education and Network leadership to support students’ growth and development.”
She is President of Chattanooga Endeavors, Inc., a non-profit organization which advocates for the interests of citizens repatriating from incarceration. Ardena previously was Special Prosecutor for Child Abuse cases with the Hamilton County District Attorney’s office. She served as Hamilton County’s first elected District Public Defender from 1990 to 2014 (3 successive 8-year terms), having been appointed to the newly-created position by Gov. Ned McWherter in 1989. Ardena graduated as a Ooltewah HS valedictorian, earned her bachelor’s degree at Middle TN State U. and earned her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the U. of Kansas.
Dr. Jill Keegan Levine: Education Administrator
Jill is the Chief of Innovation and Choice for Tennessee’s Hamilton County Schools, a district of over 45,000 students. Prior to this role, she served as the Chief of the Opportunity Zone, a learning community focused on turnaround of the twelve highest needs schools in the district, as well as serving previously as the Chief Academic Officer of the school district.
After graduating from Wellesley College with a double major in Music and History, Jill began her career teaching 3rd grade and directing musical theater productions in the New Orleans Public Schools. She was the principal of Normal Park Museum Magnet, a Chattanooga Pre-K through 8th grade school, for 14 years. She led the transformation of two low performing schools into award winning, innovative, exciting and challenging places of learning. In 2012, Jill was recognized as the National Magnet Schools Principals of the Year. From 2013-2015, she served in the Obama administration as the first full time Principal Ambassador Fellow at the US Department of Education. In that capacity, she worked closely with Secretary Arne Duncan to increase the department’s focus on the importance of school leadership.
Dr. Tana M Session is an organizational development strategist, international speaker, and media contributor. Dr. Session changes lives at work through transformative Inclusion, Diversity & Multigenerational workforce strategies . She is the CEO and Founder of From Foster Care to Fabulous Foundation.
Christopher. Lafayette is an Emergent Technologist in medtech, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, climate and applied sciences. He is a Silicon Valley national and international speaker, Thought Leader and Culture & Inclusion Advocate. He is the Founder of Black Technology Mentorship Program (BTMP)
Forest T. Harper Jr. is the President and CEO of INROADS, the nation’s largest non-profit model of salaried corporate DEI internships and corporate and community leadership development for outstanding ethnically diverse talent at the pipeline and mid-career level.
This year marks 50 years for INROADS. Hear how the organization is important to corporate America’s landscape today and is proving effective in closing America’s Racial Wealth Gap. Understand how to execute diversity & inclusion strategies to accelerate organizations in today’s multicultural market. Harper shares how vital it is to establish talent pipeline development for attracting, recruiting and sustaining diverse talent as well as securing C-Suite alignment.