Reducing Poverty, Increasing Respect

Out of humble beginnings can come huge dreams.

That’s Penny Smith’s own story. Now the executive director of academic services at Northeast Ohio Medical University is developing a solution to address the poverty that hinders more than a third of the total population in Cleveland.

Dr. Smith has been named a fellow and is one of five finalists for the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Innovation Mission, which seeks solutions to reduce poverty in the Cleveland area. She will now spend the next 18 months researching and implementing a plan to find real-life solutions, which will culminate with a pitch to the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. If selected by the foundation, Dr. Smith would receive up to $20,000 in seed funding to pilot the approach to help reduce poverty.

Her idea is to provide opportunities to those who need them the most. Dr. Smith is developing a multi-step solution that involves both public policy and technology to incentivize ex-offenders and military veterans who are non-custodial parents to participate in apprenticeships and job training opportunities while paying child support.

“I am the daughter of the first black lineman at Kentucky Utilities and a hospital cook,” said Dr. Smith. “They wanted to go to college but it was a dream deferred. Their dream was my gateway to three degrees. My passion by default became to dedicate my career to ensuring that those with humble backgrounds and nontraditional circumstances are not only helped, but also respected.”

Visit the Sisters of Charity Foundation website to learn more about the fellowship, and how Dr. Smith and others are taking major steps to address the poverty issues in our local communities.

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