Kate Schuenke-Lucien: Education, Accompanied.
Think. Pair. Share. Podcast Transcript
0:00:09.1 Audrey Scott: Welcome to this Modern Education podcast that explores learning. From the everyday exchange of thoughts and ideas to the theories and practices behind entire systems. Think education is cool, so do we. So we pair two conversations, learn about our guests, then learn from our guests. Share your takeaways and come back for more. You're listening to, Think. Pair. Share. With me Audrey Scott. Kate Schuenke-Lucien is the director for Haiti and Senior Associate Director for strategic planning in the Global Center for the development of the whole child at the University of Notre Dame. Since 2012, she and her team have implemented education programs in Haiti focused on early grade Literacy, Social-Emotional Learning, Early Childhood Development and Community Engagement. Kate is an avid proponent for Chicago's vibrant Pilsen neighborhood, and its treasured St. Procopius school. Her engaging laugh is earned, and I'm so pleased to welcome her to Think. Pair. Share. Today. Hi, Kate, thank you so much for being here.
0:01:13.0 KATE SCHUENKE-LUCIEN: Oh, it's a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
0:01:15.8 AS: It's always good to see you on the campus, but I know that you live in Chicago or certainly often in Haiti. I used to live in Chicago too. And I just love the Pilsen area.
0:01:24.2 KS: Yeah, we live in Pilsen, and my kids go to St. Procopius, which is a dual language immersion school there on 18th Street. We've got plant shops, bookstores, it's a hipsters paradise. It's a really fun, vibrant neighborhood. And we just enjoy it.
0:01:37.5 AS: How... Did you guys land in Pilsen?
0:01:40.3 KS: My husband started grad school at University of Illinois, Chicago... When I started grad school at the University of Notre Dame, back in 2005. And so as he was about to move from Haiti to Chicago, he said, I guess I gotta find an apartment, and so I said, Well, I'll go look at a couple for you and that's how we ended up in Pilsen. I went into the UIC graduate school office and I said, "What's a reasonably priced neighborhood really close to here?" And they said, Well, "Pilsen is probably your best bet." And you know what? It's been great. We love it there.
0:02:08.7 AS: I just love that. And you're right, I just think that there's such vibrancy to the neighborhood and to the people who live there, so that's awesome. As our tradition here, we start out with a little bit of a fun section, which... Your lucky theme in very hot July is summer fun time. Like it or not, here it's coming at you.
0:02:30.6 KS: Audrey, I'm ready. Game face. I'm gonna answer all your question. Be good, I'm gonna be good.
0:02:35.6 AS: You are gonna be excellent. I can tell that already. If you have to pick one section, how about hamburgers or Impossible burgers?
0:02:43.0 KS: Hamburgers. Impossible burgers are the vegetarian ones, correct?
0:02:50.6 AS: Yes.
0:02:51.1 KS: Yes. Okay, I think I would just go with regular hamburgers, probably. Maybe I'll evolve some day and I'll be into the impossible burgers, but for now it would be regular hamburgers.
0:03:00.7 AS: Yes, I just wasn't sure if you were a vegetarian. So I didn't want to put only meat options.
0:03:03.8 KS: I'm an aspirational vegetarian, like I go in fits and spurts, so I gotta be honest, I would probably pick the hamburger.
0:03:11.3 AS: Fair enough then maybe I'll say hot dogs or brats.
0:03:14.6 KS: Brats. I'm from Wisconsin, so. It has to be brats with sauerkraut on them. You have to have a sauerkraut.
0:03:21.7 AS: Okay, but you're not going in for a Chicago dog.
0:03:24.4 KS: No, people in Chicago are so funny about their... I like a Chicago dog, but I also don't like people being so militant about ketchup, because I feel like every time my kids get a hot dog in Chicago, they want ketchup, because kids always want ketchup and they always get dirty looks. And I'm like, "Okay. We're just... Just ketchup." So no, I like a Chicago dog, but if I'm choosing, I'm taking a bratwurst, preferably one that's been simmered in beer for a long time before it's been put on the grill and then topped with sauerkraut that's my jam.
0:03:52.1 AS: That sounds good, actually. Okay, great lemonade or Iced tea.
0:03:56.4 KS: Lemonade.
0:03:57.6 AS: Watermelon or cantaloupe.
0:03:57.7 KS: Watermelon.
0:03:58.3 AS: Me too, I love watermelon.
0:04:00.2 KS: Even if it's a not awesome watermelon, if you put a little salt on it, it's gonna taste amazing.
0:04:04.8 AS: Oh my gosh, a woman after my own heart. Cotton candy or elephant ears.
0:04:11.1 KS: Elephant ears. I'm not a cotton candy, even as a kid, I don't think I was ever... It looks amazing, but it never lives up to my expectations, so no. And it's so sticky and messy... So yes Elephant ears, for sure. Anything that's got cinnamon in it, I'm pretty... I'm a big fan of anything that's got cinnamon in it, so...
0:04:28.1 AS: Yeah, that's great, yeah. Okay, multiple choice for a couple of summer fun packs. The dog days of summer are named after Toto from The Wizard of Oz. Sirius, the Dog star constellation or Nipper the RCA dog.
0:04:43.9 KS: B. I don't even remember what B is, but I'm just gonna go with B, because I don't know the answer. And I think I remember you're always supposed to go with the middle choice if you get multiple choice.
0:04:52.9 AS: In this case, you're absolutely right, no matter what your...
0:04:55.2 KS: It worked... My strategy worked.
0:04:57.9 AS: I love your strategy. I would not stick with it though, insider tip.
0:05:01.8 KS: Haven't you ever read though that if you're taking a standardized test and you are running out of time, you're supposed to and you're really not even gonna look at them, you're supposed to just pick the same letter all the way through, maybe this is wrong. I don't know, I work with a lot of educators, so I should ask them if that is true, but someone can tell us Audrey, someone can investigate that and tell us if that is...
0:05:22.3 AS: We'll send the summer, intern to work on it.
0:05:24.7 KS: Yeah What was B.
0:05:26.7 AS: B was Sirius the Dog star, which rises in the sky during late July as part of the greater dog constellation, according to National Geographic.
0:05:33.7 KS: Okay good source.
0:05:36.3 AS: And to the Greeks and romans, yeah it's a very good source, to the Greeks and Romans, the dog days indicated the hottest time of year. So a little history lesson along the way.
0:05:43.1 KS: Well, there you go. If I am ever on Jeopardy! That's gonna come in really handy.
0:05:47.8 AS: I like it. And I'm just gonna say free for all on this last one, depending on your strategy. The very first Frisbee. The very first Frisbee. Now a summer classic was an empty Pie tin, a vinyl record or a hubcap.
0:06:02.0 KS: Empty Pie tin.
0:06:02.9 AS: Yay.
0:06:03.9 KS: I'm 2 for 2 wow.
0:06:06.7 AS: Yes you are. The frisbee began in Bridgeport, Connecticut where William Frisbie opened the Frisbie Pie Company in 1871. The university students would play with the empty Pie tins, which prompted them to call them flying saucers. And then organize them into a game that ended up being produced and played, and is kind of now a competitive sport, so.
0:06:28.7 KS: One that I'm very poor at, I cannot for the life of me, throw a frisbee with any sense of clarity on where it's going to land, I can throw it hard, but I have no idea where it's going to end up, there's just no telling.
0:06:41.2 AS: Oh, my gosh, I love it. Okay, one more for a personal choice, a vacation in general, would you pick beach or ski or...
0:06:49.7 KS: So to be very honest, I like cold weather more than I like hot weather, but I would pick whichever vacation spot was going to allow me the most time to read, I can read on a beach, I can read in a ski lodge, I can read anywhere. So I'm always carrying a lot of books around.
0:07:05.4 AS: So I assume you're a good reader.
0:07:07.0 KS: You know I am, I think the word I would use is probably voracious. I love to read. I still remember I learned to read sort of by osmosis at a really young age, I went to a Montessori pre-school, and I remember one day I said, "Oh, I think I can read this book." And they said, "Can you?" And I remember the book, it was Margaret Wise Brown's, "Home for a Bunny". And I remember very specifically, I was four and I read this book and they said, "Well, maybe you just memorized that book." And so they kept handing me books, and I kept reading them. And they were like, "How did you learn how to read?" I'm like, "I don't know, but I love this, this is all I wanna do." So I was kind of famous as a kid for sneaking books everywhere. My parents had rules about how long if I wanted to purchase a book, it had to be really long because otherwise I would finish it really fast, because I just couldn't be stopped. You could not stop me from reading, I would go up and climb trees and read in trees, I would try to read at the dinner table, I would sneak books into church, read them behind the bulletin, I would try to sneak it in.
0:08:08.5 KS: Like I've just always been that way, that that is like my... I don't know, I've just always been a really intense reader, and I think in particular during the pandemic, reading was really like a great escape, I was like, "Things are really stressful, reading is gonna be really soothing, it's gonna... " Anyways, I got into a habit that I had fallen out a bit of with kids and grad school and work of reading every night, so I think actually every night, that's kind of a nightly routine as I read for an hour, an hour and a half. Every night it's kind of like if I don't do it, I feel a little bit bereft, I feel a little bit lost. So, yes, I do, I really enjoy reading, it's really important to me.
0:08:47.0 AS: That's great. And I'm guessing that your husband and kids actually know that and love that about you and probably have ways of giving you that space, I hope.
0:08:57.6 KS: Yeah, it's true. Well, I do and you know what I found is that I have to do it at night, like I have a six-year-old who she wants to lay on my arm to fall asleep, so my routine is that we both get ready for bed at the same time, and I have a Kindle, which is a great gift to me because between the public library, eBooks and my Kindle... So anyways, she falls asleep on my arm, and I read for an hour and a half until I fall asleep, too. So we have a really great nightly routine, we've been doing that for a couple of years now, and it's been just a lovely routine.
0:09:26.2 AS: That sounds delightful. Did your parents read to you all the time?
0:09:30.1 KS: I used to sit with my dad, I would always sit in his lap when he would read the newspaper, and I do remember I would ask questions. And obviously at Montessori, I think I was learning about... A Montessori approach, they allow you to explore or do things at your own pace. So I think I was exploring, they just didn't realize maybe that I was putting it all together. And I will tell you about my... I went to that Montessori pre-school, and then I was supposed to go to kindergarten after that, obviously the next progression at the public school, and my brother had gone to kindergarten, he's three years older than me, and all he told me about was how amazing kindergarten was, "Kindergarten is so much fun, they don't treat you like a baby, you get to do all this fun stuff." I'm from a small town, and one of my mom's dear friends was the kindergarten teacher, so I was also really excited to have Mrs. Hoffman. And I remember getting to kindergarten on the first day, and they did some sort of a test or something, I can't remember, and I remember the kindergarten teacher saying, "I'm really sorry, but you have to go to first grade." And I was distraught, I was like, "Why?" And she's like, "If you can read, you can't stay in kindergarten." And so I went to first grade, it all worked out. I just love... I don't know, I just...
0:10:37.2 AS: It sounds like that you find a joy in reading.
0:10:40.0 KS: Yeah, I would say that it's almost... I think for, honestly, my whole life... Stepping back a second, I grew up in a very small town in northern Wisconsin. And so for me, from a very young age, reading was a way to explore the broader world. I loved where I grew up, I grew up in the middle of the woods on a lake in this small, beautiful town surrounded by nature. All of that was wonderful, and I wouldn't change it for anything. But reading was a way to kind of... This was pre-internet, we only got... When I was growing up, we only got two TV stations, NBC and PBS, so I had some exposure, but you know it's not like that was... We didn't have cable or anything like that. And so reading was a way for me to explore things I was interested in, read about other people's lives, get those different experiences. I just remember the public library being like a magical place for me. I love the way it smelled. I would go into the library and I would just wanna like... Oh, I just still to this day remember how the library smelled when I was a kid and just the excitement of picking out new books, and the librarians who knew me and would set aside things.
0:11:46.9 KS: So yeah, I think for me it was... I've just always taken such, just deep joy in it, and you might have noticed, Audrey, and other people, if they know me would know I'm kind of an extrovert, which is true, I can't deny. I'm definitely an extrovert, but I think that maybe honestly part of why I find reading so centering and so soothing. It's an activity where I think I quiet down, and I sort of retreat into myself a little bit, and I really get into someone else's world in a more passive way, for lack of a better word, and that is just very, I don't know, very centering for me. Yeah, I just take so much joy in it, it's just a really big part of my life, now that I think about it.
0:12:26.8 AS: Well, that's wonderful, and I know that actually... I think I'm probably gonna be skipping ahead pretty far, but part of your work includes the value of literacy and... Do you tie those together? We can certainly get into some of that in a bit, but do you tie those together?
0:12:42.1 KS: Absolutely. I just think about having access to books, again, to broaden my world. I think about the kids that we're serving particularly, I work and serve schools and families in Haiti, and there's a real lack of access to resources, to materials. Does the school itself even have a library? Very often not. And do kids have books at home that they're able to explore and read and enjoy? They don't. I would say that animates my passion for this work. There's one element of reading for pleasure, and I think that's extremely important. Opening you up to the world and your value and dignity as a human being who deserves to just be able to explore and have different types of experiences, there's that, it's almost like a human flourishing almost from an artistic or a human level, and then there's just a very practical level where reading is extremely important, so that when you go to the bank, you understand if you're signing something when you sign a bank document or people can't take advantage of you if you're signing a land contract or... You would know, You would be able to read and understand.
0:13:43.5 KS: So I think that there is an element of beauty in reading and just opening yourself up to the world and those new experiences, and then there's also just a practical aspect to reading. And so I think it's both for me. That's like my motivation, I just want people to have access, to be able to read so that they have not only the ability to experience deep pleasure from reading, but to also have control of their own lives.
0:14:08.0 AS: Oh my gosh, that's wonderful. Yeah, both excellent. I always like to sort of ground people on how they came to Notre Dame or their path to Notre Dame, I'd love to hear yours.
0:14:17.5 KS: Yeah, so I went to Wheaton College for undergrad, then lived in Haiti for a year. I taught at a Haitian elementary school for a year, and then went to Tulane to do my master's degree in Latin American Studies. And while I was at Tulane, I decided... I'll be very honest with you, I was like, Well, I know how to do graduate school, school is... I know how to keep doing school, so maybe I'll keep applying to school, and I applied at a couple of places, but Notre Dame was my top choice to do a PhD in Political Science. So I came to Notre Dame with the idea that, again, that I would do my PhD and that my focus would be on Latin America and the Caribbean and Haiti in particular within the field of comparative politics. So that's how I came to Notre Dame, and actually my very first political science course at Notre Dame as a graduate student back in 2005 was on political parties. And it was being co-taught by Tim Scully. So I walked into the classroom and I was there a little bit early, there weren't that many students, and Tim was there and he was dressed in his blacks. Now, I know that they're called blacks. I didn't know that at the time.
0:15:23.1 KS: So I sit down and I'm trying to make conversation and I say, "Oh, you know, Tim," he said, "Oh please, everybody call me Tim." I said, "You know, Tim, never been in the same room as a priest before. I was raised Protestant, I was not raised Catholic, and I'd literally never been in the same room as a priest before." And he said, "Oh, you've never been in a room with a priest." I said, "No." I said, "I've never even seen a priest in his priest outfit." And he laughed really hard and he patted me on the hand and he said, "I just love that you called it a priest outfit. I really think you and I are gonna be friends." And I'll be honest, we were from that point on. I was a research assistant for him, he wrote books about Latin America and politics. So after the earthquake in 2010, ACE really expanded its footprint because of their relationship with Holy Cross in Haiti, the prevalence of Catholic schools, ACE really made a commitment and had donor support to work to improve the quality of education in Haiti, and because I had done research for him, with different books on Haiti and all of that, and he knew that I spoke Creole, Tim graciously invited me to kind of be part of that work, and so that's how I came to ACE and IEI.
0:16:29.6 AS: That's wonderful. Follow-up question, if I could.
0:16:31.9 KS: Yeah.
0:16:32.4 AS: I'd love to hear your passion for Haiti, you work a lot there, and sort of what sparked that?
0:16:37.7 KS: My family, I grew up in the Evangelical Free Church, that's the denomination I grew up in, and my parents had been really involved in working in different service areas within the Evangelical Free Church, and one of those was in Haiti. So my parents had been to Haiti several times. I had not been to Haiti as a child, but my parents had gone and done different work. My mom was a teacher, she was a Special Education teacher and really had a heart for kids and particularly disadvantaged kids. And so my mom was a teacher, and as I mentioned, a Special Education teacher, and when I was 19, I was in a very bad car accident, and my mom was killed in the car accident. And so part of the gifts from all of her memorial, what we asked for in our family was that all the gifts from her memorial would go to finish... To complete a school that she and my dad had been helping to start in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. And so when I graduated from college, that's why I went to Haiti the year after I graduated, was because of all the gifts that had been made... Sorry.
0:17:52.5 KS: Had been made in my mom's name, the community decided that they wanted to name the school after my mom. So the school, it's still there, it serves 1000 kids in Cap-Haïtien, it's called College Susan Schuenke, and so I decided to go and to serve and to teach in that school for that year. So that really was... So it was kind of directed for me in a way that my path would be drawn towards Haiti, and particularly to education in Haiti. So that's why since I've been 19, that's been something that's been important to me, to our family, and something that we've been pretty committed to. So I'll be very honest, I felt incredibly... I'll tell the story, it was after the 2010 earthquake, and I was... I had just had my son, I was on a leave of absence from graduate school. Because I had just given birth in October to my son Sebastian, who is almost 13 now, and I just remember watching all of that coverage in Haiti. I'm sure you remember it, right? Just the... The total...
0:19:00.7 AS: Absolutely.
0:19:00.8 KS: And I remember just sitting there and holding my son and thinking, "Oh, I would do anything to protect him." And I just thought about all of those families that were struggling, that couldn't take care of couldn't provide medical services for their children, just the injured, just all of that. And I think maybe that was a bit of a turning point for me. I had been I'm kind of in maybe an academic track, I was on track to say, okay, just school is the thing that I'm good at. And I'll just keep kind of keep doing it. I'm gonna get my PhD. And then I wanna be a professor. And I honestly think that was a pivotal moment for me to say, "What, what do I wanna do?"
0:19:34.5 KS: It's not that I don't like, it's not that I don't wanna finish my PhD. Or it's not that I don't care about these things. But there's just so much hurt in the world, there's so much that's happening. I would just really like to be a part of some of those solutions. So I'll be very honest, when that opportunity was presented to me, by Tim to come and to kind of come alongside and help with these efforts. I was very open to it. I felt like, that was the timing. That was the moment. And that was really the kind of thing I wanted to spend my life pursuing.
0:20:06.4 AS: Well, I can think of no finer reasons to do the work that you're doing. And specifically there. Thank you so much for sharing that. It's beautiful. Something tells me she... Has a [0:20:20.3] ____ smiling down on you and the work that you guys are doing.
0:20:24.5 KS: No, I think that all the time that, it's funny, because it's very interesting to be... It's been almost, it's been over 20 years, since my mom died. And I miss her in different ways at different moments. But there is something I was just talking to another friend of mine who lost her mom, when she was younger as well. And we as we're moms now we were saying, "Oh, now we understand." We just wish we could talk to our moms as adults. Now that we're moms ourselves. And it's like this whole new understanding of love when you are a mother, and you understand how you feel for your child and what you would do and just how deeply you love your child.
0:21:04.0 KS: It's in a way, it's a gift, because now I recognize, "That's how my mom loved me." Like she loved me that much, somebody felt about me the way that I feel about my kids. And so anyways, yeah, I always say to people about grief, or losing someone like that, you never, you never get over it. If someone is worth loving, they're worth grieving over. There's a really, there's a philosopher named Nicholas Wolterstorff, who I really liked, who said that, if someone's worth loving, they're worth grieving over. And I think what you realize is you just get more used to it. You get used to living with it. But also, it's amazing how it different at stages of your life, you miss them in different ways. So it's an it's an ongoing thing.
0:21:51.1 AS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I just really appreciate, I love hearing those perspectives. And I know that resonates with most if not, if not all of our listeners in one way or another. So thank you so much for sharing that.
0:22:09.7 KS: Yeah, thanks for giving me the chance. I mean it's one of those things where you don't often get a chance to talk. It's interesting working here, a lot of people know my story. But that's like one of the deep, that's a really life defining thing for me. And it's not something you just bring up over dinner, usually until you're really close with someone, but it's not... The older you get you realize to those things that bring up those deep emotions are the things that really matter. And so it's actually, I hope that gives people also permission to talk about those, those deep things, because that's part of who you are, and how you came to this work.
0:22:41.0 KS: One other thing, I have a really, I'm very blessed, I have a dad who continues to be deeply involved in working in Haiti who really picked up the legacy of what he and my mom had done and carried that forth. And I'm also really lucky because I have a dad who is really demonstrative and an extremely present in my life and loves me and, loves my kids. So as deeply, I miss my mom deeply, but I just wanna make it clear. I have a really wonderful dad, who's just been really present and so that's a gift. It makes me appreciate having my dad I think it's, way losing my mom at that age allowed me to enter into a new and different season of a relationship with my dad. And that is really a gift and I'm very grateful for that.
0:23:28.5 AS: It's a wonderful perspective too and sorry, I killed teared up myself.
0:23:34.1 KS: No, that's okay. That's okay.
0:23:36.8 AS: Boy. Just thank you for, I feel honored that you felt welcome to share that and I really just honestly I do think that all of that will resonate with not only your dad and your family but others as well. So I truly appreciate it. And I love that kind of sharing, because that's how we kind of get to know, we do get to know each other through stories. And these true ones are just really help us some understand each other better. And hopefully give grace and kindness for all the people are going through. So, again thank you very much.
0:24:14.7 KS: No, my pleasure.
0:24:18.2 AS: And that certainly helps explain in spades, your passion for Haiti. So that and many other things, which we'll continue to talk about. But thank you so much. I know just relatively recently, The Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child was formalized. But...
0:24:35.6 KS: Yeah, the... So ACE Haiti existed since it was 2010, or 2011, have to think about but around there. And then we have a donor that supports us, the Porticus organization, and Dr. Neil Boothby, who I think may have been on this podcast before.
0:24:50.9 AS: Yes he was.
0:24:51.0 KS: So yeah, so Neil was at Columbia University at the time, and Porticus was helping to support implementing partners that to be able to measure the work that they were doing, it was called measuring what matters to measure, more difficult to measure things in education, like socio emotional learning, rather than just straight up academic scores. And so Neil and his team came to visit us in Haiti. And there was just an instant... There was just a real connection between the work that we were doing and Neil and what his team was doing. And Neil actually said, "I really wanna be at a place where I can be interested in research, but also in the outcomes that we're achieving for really vulnerable children."
0:25:27.0 KS: And he said, "I think Notre Dame is the place where I could do that." So Neil came first as a professor. And then about a year after he came, I think he came in 2018. And I think it was in 2019, that the Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child was formed. And about a year or so after that, as Haiti, we had been working very closely together, but we moved over into the Global Center for the development of the Whole Child. So now, this is a real mouthful, I'm sure communications people love us with these mouthfuls. But instead of ACE Haiti, all the Haiti work that we're doing here at IEI is now under the Global Center, and it's the Global Center for the development of the Whole Child, Haiti.
0:26:10.1 AS: Thank you, you did that very concisely for how many...
0:26:14.0 KS: Well, people who know me are probably shocked that it was concise, but I tried my best for you, actually. I am not known for being succinct. But I tried.
0:26:21.6 AS: It was perfect. So they give... What does that mean to you guys, in the work that you do that it's been formalized under the Global Center?
0:26:28.8 KS: Well, it means that we've been able to build a bigger and more diverse team. And I think what we've been really working towards, with the Global Center, I'll just say that for short, what we've been able to do in the Global Center is to have better data on what we're doing and what we need to do and how we might be moving the needle in some of these school-based areas, and able to understand what else communities need for children to thrive. Listeners may or may not have heard about our L three system. It's called Lekay L'eglise L'ecole, which stands for the homes, school and church, that's actually a phrase in Creole, it's a proverb, if you're a good parent, you're taking good care of your kids, they're gonna be one of three places, they're gonna be in the home, the school or the church.
0:27:07.5 KS: And we really thought about it. And we thought, that is the system in Haiti, because there aren't government services, there isn't a department of public health or Child Services, the system that's really touching children's lives and has the ability to impact them and improve outcomes for them is the home the school and the church. And so we... It was a more labor intensive process, to try to organize, you can imagine, the priests that we're working with in Haiti, figure out what are those community needs? What are the nutritional needs of those families? How do we assess that? So I think what happened... We were, I really felt very good about the work, we did in ACE Haiti, it was really important. And that is the foundation of that school-based work that showed efficacy that's allowing us to move into these other spaces with the Global Center, and to expand and go beyond just school-based. While school-based is still in a central part of what we do.
0:28:03.0 AS: Thank you. Yeah. You're so passionate about what you do. And for extremely excellent reasons. I want to make sure that people understand what you're doing on the ground there, I guess. And because I think it feels very big, especially when it's in the Global Center. And I just wanna make sure people understand some of the work you do, which helps understand the passion that you have for it. Does that make sense?
0:28:26.6 KS: Yeah. Our goal is to create pathways out of adversity for vulnerable children. And there's multiple ways that we approach that. At a broad scale. We're working in 270 schools on early grade literacy, socio-emotional learning, and some kindergarten pre K, early childhood development programming that also focuses on social-emotional learning. We have multiple donors that are supporting the work that we're doing. We're also trying... Haiti is a really difficult place to make progress. And so we are really investing heavily. And we have support from some donors to do that in the northern part of Haiti, in really focusing on the Lekay L'eglise L'ecole, the L three system, the home, the school and the church, and really trying to come up with some innovative solutions that are sustainable, that we can hopefully scale to a larger number of schools.
0:29:17.9 KS: So I would say that one thing that's important to know about our work is it's all, it's focused on children and families. At this point, mostly from early childhood through early elementary school, working with not just the children, but with their families and their teachers and the priests and other community members who interact with them, and trying to figure out, how can we deepen and increase the impact of our work. And we're starting to do that at a smaller scale, with a goal of trying to take some of those lessons to the larger number of schools that we work with. One thing that's important to know about Haiti is that approximately 20% of Haitian schools are Catholic, and only about 12% of schools in Haiti are public. So that makes the Catholic Church, the single largest provider of educational services in Haiti.
0:30:01.6 KS: So I think in particular, a reason that donors are interested in working with us is because the Catholic Church has the ability to have a system-wide. You know how the Catholic Church is pretty well organized, they've got the whole, every, they've got the diocese, the parishes, everything is mapped out. And so there really is a system to work with, whereas the national education system is much more fragile, and, frankly, non existent in Haiti in many ways. So I think that's why there's sort of a foothold, that donors, even who are not particularly interested in religious education, are interested in funding the Catholic school network in Haiti, because they know that that's an, that gives them a foothold, to be able to scale programs that are working effectively. So we work at... We have some things we know that work at scale, and we're continuing to do those things at scale. We have other interventions that go deeper into kids lives, that we're trying to incubate on a smaller level, with the goal of learning what works well, and then being able to scale that further.
0:30:57.2 AS: Okay. Wonderful. That's very helpful. Is there? Or can you share an example, when [0:31:01.2] ____ you say some of the things you know work at scale versus something that you're testing to see if it works?
0:31:06.5 KS: Yeah, so an example of something that we know works at scale, we have a lot of great evidence about our early grade literacy program for first and second grade students. We did a randomized control trial lives and a few of them. And we know that the children who participate in in our program have statistically significantly better results than children who don't participate in our program in randomly selected schools. So that's something that we feel very confident in. If we had the funds, we would scale it to as many schools as we possibly could, because we know that it works, we already have the evidence that that works. A very big issue in schools in Haiti, is that there isn't government support for schools, and Catholic schools have to charge tuition, even when you go to public school in Haiti, you're still having to pay some forms of tuition, in terms of uniforms and materials.
0:31:54.9 KS: In addition, in public schools in Haiti, it might be, "free" but the consistency of the teacher showing up because they're not getting paid regularly. Right, so a lot of parents choose with limited resources choose to send their kids to Catholic school, because it's the very best option for them. They know that that's the best education their kids will be able to receive in their community. The problem is, is that parents have a hard time paying that school tuition. And schools have to be able to pay their teachers. So oftentimes kids will have to drop out because they can't pay school fees. And they're very small school fees. I mean, we're talking often, some of the schools we work with, between 50 and $100 a year is the school tuition. That's the total tuition, and families are not able to make those payments.
0:32:40.1 KS: So that's an issue that we're trying to figure out is, is there some type of social enterprise or some type of way that we could have a sustainable subsidy for those Catholic schools so that they could continue to operate and subsidize children who aren't able to pay full tuition. So that's really hard to do. That is a really hard problem to crack. But we were thinking to ourselves, Well, look, we have this great literacy program, and we know that it works, but kids can't afford to stay in school. Okay, we're reaching a lot of kids with this literacy program. But we know that there are kids who really need this program, who aren't able to continue on in school because they aren't able to pay the tuition, or the school isn't able to stay open. It's just not able to sustain itself, because not enough children can pay tuition. So I would say that's an example of the dialectic between something that works and a way that we could make something that works even better if we could fix another problem.
0:33:33.4 AS: Yeah, that's very helpful, actually. Thank you.
0:33:35.5 KS: Could I add one. I have heard and I know this has been perhaps a hot topic around IEI and ACE just thinking about evaluation and research and just what amount of what we do is programmatic and what has to do with research and evaluation. And for us with our work, particularly in Haiti from the very beginning, I think because of the funding structure, because we were applying for these large grants to do this work, we always had to provide evidence, we always had to do rigorous evaluations about whether it worked or not. And I remember the first large randomized control trial we did for the literacy program. I remember just thinking, you know what, this, I wanna do a really robust evaluation of this, because if it doesn't work, I don't want to keep doing it. I feel like we have a responsibility we're getting these funds were being entrusted by these donors with these funds to get outcomes. And, you know what we should be able some of these things, we should be able to measure.
0:34:31.7 KS: Like, either kids are learning to read better, or they're not either that's improving or it's not. And so what ended up happening is that evaluation data ended up being turned into a research article that we were able to publish in a high quality journal. But we didn't do the evaluation, because we wanted to publish the article, the article was just a way for us to share the learning that we had about what worked and what didn't work in Haiti. So I think for our work, I've always seen those things as very combined. I just wanna know what's working. And if that leads to being able to publish something, and share that knowledge with others in the same space, then that's great. But I just have never seen, like, any friction between research and programmatic work, because for us, they've always been very entwined.
0:35:20.8 AS: I mean, to me, that makes sense. Is the Global Center work unique in that do you think, or?
0:35:27.6 KS: I think in terms of research and programmatic work, I think the Global Center is maybe somewhat unique in that those things have always gone hand in hand. We haven't started doing programmatic work, and then later brought an evaluation, or started evaluations slash research, or we haven't started doing research. We don't do very much research that evaluate someone else's programs, if that makes sense. So they've always again, I think it has to do with the way that our funding cycles work the way that we're supported. But they've always been very intertwined. And I have always just thought high quality evaluations will tell us if we should keep doing more or less of what we're doing. To me, the data that allows us to publish articles is data that's just helpful for me to know is this worth investing, and we only have limited funds, and we wanna help kids and improve their outcomes for them. So let's do more of what works. Let's try to figure out what's working and do more of that versus not doing an evaluation and continuing to do something that isn't very effective.
0:36:26.5 KS: So to me, the evaluation has always just been integral to how we do our work. It just so happens that a good evaluation can also lead to great research, and we happen to be part of a university, where doing research is important. And I also think of research as being able to share with others things that worked or didn't work, because I know when we're thinking about doing a program in Haiti, we wanna go out there and look at people who've done rigorous evaluations or research in similar contexts and learn from what they did and what worked and didn't work. So we have always seen researchers have access to a community of learning to help us improve our practice. It seems to me like a virtuous cycle of value, you do a program you design it based on research other people have done and shared with you to see what works, you evaluate how it works, and then you share that with others and you use that to inform your own practice the next time that you do this type of work.
0:37:22.0 AS: That's a great way to put it. The virtuous cycle. So thank you very much. I think you worked with one of our colleagues, Mike Macaluso, on the first Alexandria award.
0:37:30.3 KS: Yes.
0:37:30.8 AS: How was that experience?
0:37:32.1 KS: That was such a delightful experience, Mike is a brother from another mother for me, as far as I'm concerned. I just love his infectious energy, you can just tell, I would love to have Mike as a teacher, as a student.
0:37:46.1 AS: Me too.
0:37:46.3 KS: Because it's just infectious, his joy of reading and life, he is just a delight of a human being, but he... I actually approached Mike when I heard about the Alexandria award and I said, "I heard you're putting this together, I don't know if you're looking for volunteers, but I would really love to be on your committee. I would really like to be a part of this." Again, this goes back, I love to read, I... Books that are meaningful, I would love to help get those into kids hands, and I just... I love the idea of the Alexandria award to take a book that promotes Catholic social teaching, it doesn't necessarily have to be a Catholic book. In fact, the inaugural book, When Stars Are Scattered is not written from someone who's Catholic or a Catholic perspective, but it just hits all the things that you would wanna hit with Catholic social teaching. And my other reason for wanting to be in that award committee was, I have a almost 13-year-old son, and he loves to read as well, and I love to share books with him, or it's... I wanted to have access to books or know about books that he and I could both read and find meaning in and discuss.
0:38:46.7 KS: And I will tell you, Audrey, when my... My son read all the inaugural candidates for the award, and when he read When Stars Are Scattered, he came up to me and said, "Mom, this is the best book I've ever read. I'm giving it to all my friends," He said. He said, "There is no way this book can't win this award because this book... " It just moved him deeply, and we had the best discussions about it, so that's a pitch. If you haven't read When Stars Are Scattered, I had never read a graphic novel before in my life, and it totally sold me on just the power of what you can express when you combine the written word and those great graphics in a book, you can go deeper faster. And it was wonderful.
0:39:25.3 AS: I agree 100%. I read that one in a day, it's compelling, and it's also in a graphic novel form, which resonates with me, and so you're absolutely right, they made an excellent selection and I'm so glad you were able to be a part of that.
0:39:39.1 KS: Yeah, I loved it, I loved the whole experience. Just to get to talk about quality books with a group of people who love kids and love books, I mean, how much better could it get than that? I wanna be in those meetings all the time. It was lovely.
0:39:50.6 AS: Yeah. That must have been your dream come true. [laughter]
0:39:52.9 KS: It really was, that really was my dream come true, I mean, yeah, getting to listen to Father Lou expand on the spiritual principles or practices or what he liked to the connections he was making in those books was just wonderful. I loved it.
0:40:09.1 AS: We might have to record these sessions so we can all hear about these. You said that you weren't brought up Catholic, but you send your kids to Catholic school in St. Procopius there in Chicago in Pilsen. Why was that important for you to do?
0:40:23.9 KS: Oh my gosh, you're gonna make me cry again, Audrey, because this is something I'm talking about. St. Procopius brings up so many great emotions in me, it makes me wanna cry, so yes, I was not... Neither my husband nor I are Catholic, we're both Protestant, and but our faith is really important to us. I chose St. Procopius first because I wanted to do a language immersion when my son was three, it was a very... It came very highly recommended by friends in the neighborhood, and I was open to the idea of a Catholic school, but I didn't know how beautiful Catholic schools were or could be until I sent my kids there. So again, what drew me in was the dual language immersion, and that's part of what's kept me there, but what really has kept me there is the Catholic character of the school and the community, and so my son started there when he was three in Pre-K is now going into seventh grade. My daughter started there when she was three as well, and is now going into first grade, and I would say that what I just absolutely adore about that school is when you walk in, you just get this sense that at this school, they love God and they love children.
0:41:27.3 KS: And they take such good care of your kids, and if I were to distill the messages of faith that my kids get at that school, it's you are loved, Jesus loved you, you have been accepted and loved, how are you gonna turn around and extend that to others, that's the distillation of what I think they get there. I was just telling someone the this story that my 12-year-old this summer when school got out, said, "You know, mom, the place that I feel the best and the most comfortable and the most myself besides when I'm at home, is at St. Procopius." He said, "I just feel so good when I'm there," he said, "Everybody knows me, I know people." Anyways, if anyone's ever... Anyone in the building who's ever heard me talk about St. Procopius has heard me go on and on, but I just feel like it's this wonderful gem of a school that has this beautiful diversity of ethnicity and culture and that language immersion part that's just baked into the school, plus just this beautiful Catholic, this beautiful community of faith, this Catholic community. So I'm such a huge fan of that school, it's been such a gift.
0:42:37.4 AS: Something tells me you've been a gift to them as well.
0:42:39.5 KS: I hope so. I hope so.
0:42:40.5 AS: No doubt. Well, but thank you. It makes me wanna visit St. Procopius for sure.
0:42:46.4 KS: Yeah, and you know what, I've talked to some other colleagues here about how they could measure the secret sauce of Catholic schools, like how do you know when you walk into a school that they love kids and they love God? I don't know, but I just knew for how they treated people and all of that, I would say, and I don't know if that's been other folks experience at Catholic schools, but one of the other unexpected things that happened there is that the older kids are so nice to the younger kids. So I remember a couple like... This was a couple of years ago when my son was in third or fourth grade, and the eighth graders were graduating and they did a clap out. It's a big deal, they clapped the eighth graders out on their last day, and I asked my son, I said, "Oh, I heard they did the clap out. Was it fun?" He said, "Well, mom, I was so sad that they're leaving," and I said, "Really?" And he said, "Those, they're my friends, they play basketball with me every day after school," and he knew them by name, they know him by name.
0:43:37.3 KS: There's just this sense to even for my six, my middle schooler, the coolest thing that you can be in his sixth grade class, a sixth grade boy is if the little kids love you, if you're nice to little kids, if you know the pre-K kids, there's just really this sense of care for younger children among the older kids. I don't know if all Catholic schools have that, but I'm telling you, I just love that.
0:44:02.8 AS: Oh my gosh, I think we... I hope it happens a lot of schools, but we might have to try to figure out that secret sauce.
0:44:11.1 KS: Yeah, please. IEIs come over. Investigate the secret sauce of St. Procopius. I would love it. Well, you know we have a great partnership with Katy Walter Lichon and her crew at ENL and their dual language with Holy Cross here in South Bend and St. Procopius, that's been just a wonderful relationship for both schools to work together.
0:44:30.3 AS: Oh my gosh, yes, I love that back and forth. And I know it's so life-giving to these folks here too, and they love to continue that work, so.
0:44:41.5 KS: Does everybody cry this much by the way. Am I... Has everybody else cried this much. It's just my nature. I'm sorry, I don't know what to do about it, but I cry happy tears and sad tears like in an equal measure on a regular basis, so I apologize.
0:44:55.5 AS: I think we might be soul sisters, because I can do the same. I try not to make my guests cry too much, but I sure appreciate when you or they feel comfortable enough to just talk about what's in people's hearts, I think that that's what... That's what matters. So again, thank you.
0:45:12.7 KS: Oh, thanks for giving me the space to do it.
0:45:15.7 AS: Any time, any time. Tell me what's one of the most positive things you think about that relationship between the groups here and St. Procopius.
0:45:23.2 KS: I think what's... Well, first of all, there's just been a great influx of wonderful literacy materials for the, especially the early grades, so it's very difficult for teachers to find those Spanish language resources in the US, and especially the leveled readers and different kinds of books on different topics that will be interesting to kids at that age. So I think the literacy curriculum and the literacy, like the books that they've been able to provide has been huge. I think also maybe even more so than that, is the relationship of those... The teachers at St. Procopius with the Holy Cross teachers here in South Bend, they're dealing with the same types of situations. There's very few teachers who are... Have an immersion program model like St. Procopius and Holy Cross. So to have another teacher and say, "Oh, this is what you do, this is how you solve that problem."
0:46:17.7 KS: Or, "Oh, this is what I do and this is what works," or... I think that just that feeling of community that they've had between those teachers has been really, really huge, and to have another... Like a resource teacher you can go to and ask questions and learn from has just been really, really huge. St. Procopius is the only dual language immersion school in the entire state of Illinois. And I'm pretty sure that Holy Cross is the only one... Katy Lichon can correct me if I'm wrong, but the only one in Indiana. So to have each other, I think is really important.
0:46:49.2 AS: I love that idea of community. I hear that again and again, and in the folks that I talk to in all these programs, is that they don't feel alone in some of these things, that they do feel like a community of people who care, and that they could reach out at any time and sort of talk and learn and just even be heard or listened to. So, I think that's wonderful. So that among a million things, I'm sure are part of that great relationship that you guys are having between those schools. So, I'm happy for that. You do so much important, critical work in very difficult situations, quite often, very challenging, but I often ask my guests, are you hopeful for the work that you're doing in the space that you're in and moving forward?
0:47:33.2 KS: Yeah, I think I'm a very optimistic person by nature, I tend to bring... I think I tend to be a glass half-full person, and you know the reason that I'm hopeful is because I've seen it, it's slow, it's been incremental, but I have seen progress in the work that we're doing in Haiti. Another thing and in our partners. Just, man, when you go into some of those communities and you see these teachers who are working so hard, they're not payed very much but they're so committed to their communities, or when you see priests in Haiti and some of those really rural parishes. They could have opted out, they could have gone some place else and done something different, and they're there day in and day out just doing this really hard work, and they're very committed to it.
0:48:16.8 KS: You sort of think to yourself, Well, if they're not giving up, I'm not gonna give up either. I'm gonna keep doing the very best in the small way that I can to help them to continue on with this great work, and I know the Global Center is gonna be around for a very long time, but long after whatever grant cycle or anything, I know that those communities in Haiti are gonna continue on in the faith and continue to do this work and continue to serve their communities. So that actually is what gives me hope, is that I know that they're not giving up and they're gonna be there doing this work.
0:48:48.0 AS: Well, I love that hope and you have our hope along with you, I just am so appreciative for all the work that you're doing and for the time you've taken to talk to me and opening your heart to me and so many with your work in this conversation. So thank you very much.
0:49:03.2 KS: Oh, you're so kind, Audrey. This was such a pleasure. I had a great time, thank you.
0:49:07.9 AS: I did too. Thank you. And thank you all for joining us for Think. Pair. Share. If you enjoyed this episode, head on over to Apple Podcasts to subscribe, rate, and leave a review, it's very much appreciated. Check out our website at iei.nd.edu/media for this and other goodies. Thanks for listening and for now off we go.