On April 11, Leadership Tennessee hosted The Summit on Childen: The Science and Story of Poverty at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greenville, TN. The summit brought together educators and others who work with children to learn about the affects of poverty on children and how they can take action to make a difference. In addition to Leadership Tennessee, the Eastman Foundation, Governor’s Books from Birth and the Niswonger Foundation sponsored the event.
The keynote speaker, Jeannette Walls, author of New York Times best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle, told her story about living in poverty as a child and her belief that education is the great equalizer. Walls encouraged the audience to be “beacons of light” for children living in poverty, to connect them to resources and teach them that there is “no shame in accepting help when they need it.”
“So glad to hear from Jeannette Walls author of The Glass Castle, and many other experts today in Greenville at the Summit on Children: The Story & Science of Poverty,” said Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam. “It is our job to make sure Tennessee’s children get what they need to succeed.”
The summit also included a presentation on “Living the Life of Poverty” by Dr. Tammy Pawloski, Director of the Center to Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty at Francis Marion Univeristy. Pawloski asked the audience to begin thinking about poverty not just defined financially, but also as a lack of resources, which could mean financial, relationships, emotional support, etc. She pointed out that the brain continues to develop daily and that research shows children of families with more resources have greater brain development. Pawloski pointed out that there are some important ways to nurture brain development that cost nothing. She gave the example that talking with a young child and reading with them daily builds pathways in the brain that leas to greater cognitive development.
Other speakers included: TN First Lady Crissy Haslam, Scott M. Niswonger (Niswonger Foundation), Kim Gass (Career Counselor, Greene Technology Center), Jeffrey S. Bivins (Chief Justice, Tennessee Supreme Court), Dr. Randy Wykoff (Dean, College of Public Health, ETSU), Dr. Greg Aloia (Dean, College of Education, ETSU), Claudia Byrd (Speedway Children’s Charities) and David Golden (Senior Vice President, Chief Legal & Sustainability Officer, and Corporate Secretary, Eastman)