CCH welcomes Dasia Skinner, youth and education organizer

In June, Dasia Skinner became CCH’s Youth and Education Organizer, working for one year under the Americorps VISTA program. Taking over from J.D. Klippenstein, who first organized the CCH Education Committee, Dasia will organize homeless youth and parents working with the Education Committee.

Dasia was asked to introduce herself with this essay.

DSC_0497I am a 2014, first-generation college graduate from DePaul University, with a degree in sociology and minor in psychology.

I was a DePaul Leadership Scholar which is a program designed to further scholars’ formation as leaders who work for positive social change, in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. The program utilizes the Socially Responsible Leadership and the Vincentians in Action frameworks to promote scholars’ understanding of the personal, communal, societal and global dimensions of being an agent of social change.  In 2013, I took a service immersion trip to Montgomery, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights and institutionalized racism. Finally in 2014, I lived three months abroad in Merida, Mexico, where I studied Spanish and social justice. These two trips were life changing and highly impactful on me as a person and me as an agent for social change. 

My background in sociology helped me to understand the issues I saw in my Auburn Gresham community and in other predominately black, low-income communities, such as gang-violence, incarceration, poverty, and crime. It has also opened my eyes to inequalities I had not considered before, such as education, food deserts, and police brutality.

CCH was my introduction into understanding homelessness. I found that the causes were systemic and unjust. What drew me to the homeless coalition was how it empowers people affected by homelessness to stand up and use their voices. They do not go in trying to save the others, instead cultivating leaders to save themselves.

I started volunteering with CCH during my junior year of college. After doing some amateur-organizing to try and stop a Wal-Mart from being built in the Pullman area, my mentor at school told me about the community organizing training offered by CCH. I went to the training and soaked up everything I was hearing. Immediately after that, I started working with the Education Committee as a student leader. Thus began my journey with the coalition.

That brings me to my new position as Youth and Education Organizer for the Education Committee. I work with homeless and formerly homeless parents and students, along with community members to address issues they face in school.

During the past school year, CPS identified 22,144 homeless students. Homeless students are vulnerable and need services and support to learn and grow. We educate people who are unstably housed about their educational rights and empower them to stand up for those rights. I know that I have much to learn and I am excited for the journey I am on with the coalition.

For my orientation this summer, I conducted one-on-one interviews with 54 people, mostly homeless and recently homeless parents and students. The most rewarding part has been hearing the testimonies of homelessness by CCH leaders. Hearing them sends me on a rollercoaster of emotion as I have felt heartbroken, sad, happy, and inspired.  Their resilience in the face of adversity also amazes me. Some have been through life-breaking moments, yet they are still here, smiling.

When I’m not fighting injustices, I like to learn through reading. I love to grow closer to God and learn more about him. Also, I love to make music. I play the guitar, rap and sing neo-soul, R&B, punk-blues, soul, and hip-hop music. I want my music to spread awareness about issues and call people to social justice, but also create music that makes you wanna groove.