How Kansas City is Bouncing Back and Making Progress for Future Generations
Whatever adversities you face, you’ve got to acknowledge them and then use them to motivate you instead of let them wear you down. I credit my life’s obstacles for the intellectual and emotional strength that led me to my life today,” said Max Howell, founder of Howell Men for Others Foundation, a nonprofit that mentors at-risk youth in Kansas City, Missouri.
When Howell was nine, he lost his father in a drive-by shooting. And at ten, he lost his mother to incarceration for conspiring to commit that murder. Howell had to leave his family’s big house and safe suburb, where his dad had worked as an engineer and his mom had run an insurance agency, for the inner city and foster care. He moved from home to home—there were about 12 in total—and he went “through a lot of craziness.” Finally, at the tender age of fourteen, he moved out of the home of his last foster parent, who also happened to be his sister, to live on his own. (She’d been living an “illegal and unhealthy lifestyle.”)
Find out here: ACE Survey
Since then, a great deal has changed for Howell. He has a thirteen-year-old son, earned two bachelor’s degrees in engineering and a master’s in engineering management, and launched Entrepreneurial Enterprises, a Kansas City-based real estate development company.
To help others overcome their own challenges, he recently joined the efforts of Resilient KC, a new joint initiative by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Healthy KC and Trauma Matters KC, which aims to build a healthier community. The program is pushing a survey throughout the region to collect adverse childhood experience (ACE) scores, an indication of toxic stresses that occur one or more times to a child between zero and eighteen years of age.ACEs affect two-thirds of adults. Science shows that the more ACEs people endure during childhood, the higher their risk for things such as diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism and drug use, cancer and more. Toxic stress means you are 1,525 percent more likely to attempt suicide and 1,133 percent more likely to use injected drugs, to name just a few negative consequences, according to studies by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, children raised by an adult with one or more ACEs are 1,000 times more likely to suffer their own ACEs in life.
By collecting ACE data, Resilient KC wants to become “trauma informed,” that is, to identify the social stressors in its community that have had lasting effect and look beyond symptoms to find their root causes. It plans for the survey to help people understand that it is OK to share their experiences—that they’re not alone—and learn from one another’s personal stories. In its efforts, Resilient KC will identify more people in need of help and better direct resources to them.
Take the survey. Identifying and sharing problems will help you and us in the community fix them,” said Kendra Jackson, a Resilient KC advocate.
She joined the effort after her only child, Asaan Williams, was shot to death at age 18 in broad daylight at Kansas City’s Seven Oaks Park. Following his murder, Jackson learned that the park had been a breeding ground for gang- and drug-related violence, and she fought for cameras to be installed. The local community now uses the park for barbeques, games, plays, and other events, and there hasn’t been an incident there since.
“Losing a child is the only death that time doesn’t heal. I will never be the same without my son, but I’ve chosen to go on. There are thousands of other sons and daughters who are still here whom we can help, a whole village of young people we can save or talk to or change their minds,” said Jackson.
Like her, Resilient KC hopes to create a healthier environment for future generations, including within the justice community. From law enforcement to investigators to municipal court, the initiative’s organizers hope to train and educate on secondary trauma (the mental toll from exposure to trauma, which often affects first responders) and make officials more trauma aware so they’re sensitive to first-hand victims.
“Many of us who do crisis intervention not only frequently interact with community members who have ACEs but also have high ACEs ourselves. It’s a stew of anything traumatic we’ve experienced in our own childhoods mixed with all the hard things we face on a daily basis,” said Captain Darren Ivey, cochair of the Justice Committee for Resilient KC, who encourages those in the justice community to take the survey.
He plans to use the results to offer more effective services to those working in the system.
No matter who you are, you can help make a better life in Kansas City. Join the movement. Take the survey today.