In this recurring section of our blog, we regularly feature some of the work of our members with the hopes that the profile might inspire some new connections, ideas, and community building. If you’re a Thread STL member and interested in being a future Member Snapshot, drop us a line at info@threadstl.org.

  
Hannah Allee is the Out-of-School Time System Specialist for the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council.

Member Name: Hannah Allee

Title: System Specialist, Out-of-School Time

Name of partnership, coalition, or collective impact effort: Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council/East Side Aligned

What is your effort trying to achieve? East Side Aligned is a movement to align policy, practice, and investment to improve the health, readiness, and well-being of children and youth in greater East St. Louis. Coalitions of organizations and leaders work in specific areas or systems to ensure child well-being. The Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council (YCC) is a coalition of out-of-school (OST) time providers working to ensure equitable access to high-quality out-of-school time opportunities for all children and youth in the greater East St. Louis community.

How did you first get involved with your effort? What drew you in? During my first social work practicum I worked in administration at the East St. Louis School District 189 (District 189) and started going to planning meetings for what would later be called East Side Aligned (ESA). The next year I served as a practicum student for ESA where one of my main responsibilities was to support youth facilitating community forums. A few years later, I’ve made a bit of a full circle and have the opportunity to serve as backbone support to many of the organizations that led those first planning meetings and whose youth have led the ESA movement from the beginning.

I was skeptical at first about doing practicum at District 189 because I had worked on the Missouri side previously and wanted to learn St. Louis better, but from the get go in East St. Louis, I found something there that felt different (shout out to Thread member, Barbara Levin for talking me into it!). There is a widespread, genuine love for people and community in East St. Louis that I think drives a desire to work together. That love drew me to the work and keeps me in it.

When your friends and family found out you do this work, what do they say or ask? I get a lot of “that’s really cool” or similar comments. When people know I went to social work school, they have a specific picture in their mind of what social work looks like and it’s not this. I think a lot of people don’t know that jobs like this exist and are glad to hear they do.

What do you think will change the most about your effort in the next five years? ESA began as a planning process and now we’re starting to implement that plan. That in and of itself is a big change. As backbone staff, service providers, and community members, we’re still figuring out what that looks like but I think the biggest change is we’re all going to see more radical and innovative collaboration happening in East St. Louis in support of our youth.

Since the beginning, there have been young people engaged in ESA. In the coming years, I hope to see ownership of this work grow within more young people and that adult leaders step back a little bit, letting young people use their power to create the change they want to see their community.

What are some of your strongest beliefs that support the work you do or your approach to it? I was drawn to social work and youth development because I saw that the world wasn’t working how it should for a lot of kids, they didn’t have the support they needed to be successful, and I wanted to do something about it. I now recognize and am continuing to learn and understand that the world “not working” isn’t something that happened by mistake, systems have been created intentionally and inequitably. My belief that together we can change that reality, and that we can achieve racial equity, is what drives me to the work.

What might someone be surprised to know about you? My acrobatic cat broke my blinds. No joke – I think I might have one of the most ridiculous cats around – climbing on top of doors, tightrope walking the shower rod, weaving in and out of blinds – it’s an adventure.

How would someone else describe you? A little intense sometimes. Good at connecting the dots. Responsible. Intentional. Authentic. Systems thinker.

What do you do when you’re not working? I spend a good bit of my weekends with West County Community Action Network (WE CAN), a community of folks who are working to address racial injustice in West County. If you live, work, or grew up in West County, check us out. ☺

I feel pretty fortunate to have a strong network of friends and family in St. Louis. Most of my time not working I spend with the awesome people who make St. Louis home. Occasionally you’ll find me swimming at the Y or reading a book in my backyard.

What are you most proud of about your work? Tell us about a small win or big achievement and why it’s important. This year YCC lived out a couple years of planning to share student data between District 189 and service providers. There were a lot of steps – writing a data sharing agreement, training staff, and figuring out the technical process – but together we made it happen. It’s been amazing to hear how data has made providers feel more equipped to do their jobs supporting young people. They’re asking kids informed questions about what’s going on and how they can help. They’re working with young people to set personal goals informed by how they’re doing in school at that very moment. We’ve still got some kinks to work out but I’m proud to say that a little work and a lot of trust is moving us in the right direction.

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to contact you? hannah.allee@stl.unitedway.org

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to learn more about your effort? Check out www.eastsidealigned.org where you can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook by searching @EastSideAligned.