Speaker 1:

Welcome, advocates, to another episode of The Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. Today's special guest is Dr. Plashan McCune. So without further ado, Plashan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Thank you. Glad to be here. Thanks for the invite, I felt very honored.

Speaker 1:

Well, listen, listen, the pleasure is always mine and we were talking just before we started recording, I'm like, "I see that we've been connected for a while." I'm just glad that we finally have an opportunity to get together and have a conversation. So thank you so much. So before we get into today's topic and we're going to be talking about Trauma and Postsecondary Success, but before we get into that, I would love for you to share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

I'm Dr. Plashan McCune. I am the executive director for Higher Learning U, I do a lot of stuff. The CEO of the Black Homeownership Project, which is a National Home Ownership Initiative to increase, not just home ownership, but the creation and a sustainability of black wealth in our country, which data shows is we're going the wrong direction in that. And I am the chair of the African-American Young Ladies Summit Program where we're coming in on our fifth summit on December eighth, where we'll have over... Right now, we have over 320 young ladies registered between sixth grade and college. And we'll bringing in our beautiful black men and women to just create an awesome community of support around them to help them with their future and their advocacy plans, because they'll be developing some action plans to change the world. So, looking forward to it.

Speaker 1:

So the girls are going to have some work done as well-

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

I love those type of conferences. It's not just motivational and pump folks up and, "You can do it, dream big," those kind of... I love that you have... There's work. Tell me more about that, I'm curious.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

We met in October and the young ladies were asked, "What's going on in your home, your school and your community and the world that you'd like to change?" And so they came up with a list of things that they'd like to change. And so on December eighth, we're going to say, "Pick one or two of those things." And they'll be in school groups or in groups, because some of them just come with their group from the neighborhood, from the church, from a family group that just doesn't have those resources. And so they'll be put in groups and they will pick a couple things off their list that they want to work on. And we'll actually support them in developing action plans.

Speaker 1:

Nice.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

And not just in plans, but actually implementing. And so in years past, the young ladies have gone back to their schools and started black student unions. They've started girls clubs. They've had their first black history assembly, which is unfortunate, but we are here in Denver. So that often happens. There are schools that still do not recognize black history.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Black History Month. We've had young ladies write letters in their school newspapers around what it's like to be black in their schools. They've just gone back and whatever was on their heart in that space... Some of the young ladies have actually done resolutions for the school board to incorporate multicultural history into the social studies curriculum. So they've done some things. So it's not like what you said, just kind of talk and hype. They've actually gone back and said, "Oh, we can do this." And then what I had shared with them is if they run into resistance in their schools and their communities, to let me know, and I will gather some people in the [crosstalk 00:04:07] community to help support their work.

               And they've done that and they've just had amazing success. So I'm looking forward to the 320 of them that is going to be there on the eighth and what they come up with and I'm ready to help support them in changing the world. And then we have our global leadership retreat that'll be in Orlando where we'll have young ladies from all over the country where we will kind of take that to the next step of how can we support each other globally? And we'll have our sisters in Uganda, a group there that we'll be connecting with as well.

Speaker 1:

Wow. We got to talk offline [inaudible 00:04:45].

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Okay [crosstalk 00:04:45].

Speaker 1:

I want to get it to the topic, but I have so many questions and thank you for doing the work that you're doing. What's the cost to participate? How much is the cost?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Well, we're actually charging the schools and the groups and not the girls because we believe that communities should support them and they shouldn't have to struggle to try to get there as far as for the main events. Now, the cost for the event in Orlando, obviously it's more expensive than just the things we do locally or virtually. That's going to be about 1275 per girl for Thursday through Monday. It's that Presidents' Day weekend. And that includes everything, food, lodging, transportation, and et cetera. So yes, definitely looking for support. Anybody who wants to sponsor some girls or donate some stuff, they can go to our website, Higher Learning U, and donate there, because we are a nonprofit. Or email me at [email protected], and it's U not Y-O-U, U for university.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

[crosstalk 00:05:53] Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for doing this work and please reach out, if there's anything I can do, I want to support.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

I can make a donation as well, but if there's anything else you need, just let me know and we can link up and get that going because I love that. That's very awesome. So thank you for that.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Yes. Thank you. If you know any black men in the Denver area, definitely send them my way, because I'd love for them to be there on the eighth, to be part of our Worthy of Love and Respect.

Speaker 1:

Well, we might have to reach out to some of my Alpha Brothers and see if we can get some support there too.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Some alpha love going on. That would be great. [crosstalk 00:06:29] Thank you.

Speaker 1:

No problem. All right. We have gone off topic, but we are going to [crosstalk 00:06:37] be back on topic.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Sort of, it's [crosstalk 00:06:40] only sort of [crosstalk 00:06:41] because this work that I do with the girls actually is very much trauma informed.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

It came out of that. If we want to heal the souls of our children's, we have to be culturally responsive and trauma informed. So not really off topic.

Speaker 1:

Okay. Well, that's relevant. So let's [crosstalk 00:06:58] do this, let's do this then, when we're thinking about Trauma and Postsecondary Success and A Framework for Systemic Change... And I love that there's a framework and not a checklist. I don't like checklists. I don't think that there's a, "Okay. You do these first 10 steps and you're good." So I'm a big fan of frameworks instead. So kind of break down the original, where did we come up with the idea to start studying trauma and postsecondary, how they're related and kind of go from there?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Okay. Well, I think... Let me know if I don't address your question.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

So I'll talk about the reason why I wrote the book. I was part of Denver Public Schools, in the district office and working with the trauma teams. I also got lots of calls from schools. I'm a National Board Mental Health Therapist, one of my licenses in addition to superintendent license and school administrator, blah, blah, blah. But anyway, so I've done a lot of those things and worked with... For example, worked in Chicago Public Schools in the Englewood area, where there's... Most people would know, there's a lot of violence, a lot of teen pregnancy, a lot of drugs, a lot of addictions. And I've seen children come out of that and be amazingly successful, amazingly successful. And so, being here in Denver, I saw what was being taught to school leaders and teachers and different levels of educators.

               And it wasn't anything that would actually impact the system that these children were growing up in. It was like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. And I was like, "This is not what these school leaders need. It's not what the educators need. And in turn, it won't meet the needs of the students," because they didn't understand that yes, these children have been impacted by trauma and it does not stop their success. We need to know how to support them and what we need to change in ourselves as adults to create the healing spaces these children need to be successful, right?

               And it was kind of like, "Oh, these children have experienced so much trauma, that's why they act this way. That's why they're showing up this way," but they weren't really given the tools to intervene. And so, one of the things that I saw was that it was a lot of conversation higher up around trauma informed practices without, first, incorporating trauma sensitive pieces of the culturally relevant parts and responsiveness in order to become trauma informed. And so, it was separate. It was like culturally responsive over here, trauma informed over here, not understanding that in order to be trauma informed and actually do something about it, you have to understand the brain and how it works. And you understand that through understanding culture and how culture impacts how we think about things, how we understand safety, how we understand language, how we understand interactions, how we understand safety. And we can't learn in spaces where we don't feel safe.

Speaker 1:

No.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

We only learn how to defend ourselves in those spaces.

Speaker 1:

I was working with a school last year, back in March, whenever the pandemic had shut down all the schools and they had 100% free and reduced lunch. And one of the things I was trying to help the administration understand was man, these kids, a lot of these kids depend on their breakfast and their lunch every day, you have to do some sort of grab and go. You need to figure out what is the alternative? Your school is closed, but what does that mean for the kids when they depend on breakfast and lunch at least five days a week? I mean, the least we can do. I mean, that doesn't cover our weekends and the evenings, but at least for the breakfast and the lunch, those are the things we... But again, when you don't personally deal with a lot of these challenges yourself...

               So if you're a teacher, if you're a principal, whatever it is, it's not something that's part of your daily experience. We don't always connect the two. So I'm curious on your end, what made you kind of... Like you said, I started to notice that we were kind of blaming or saying, "You know what? It's the reason why the kids aren't successful is because of the trauma." So how did you start coming up with some ideas of how to change or how a school could support a student that is dealing with a lot of trauma? What was your process for that?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Well, my process was my lived experience, as a child of [inaudible 00:12:14], I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in Englewood, and navigating that and then kind of unpacking what helped me to become successful. Right? Some people look at Dr. McCune and they just assume that I've had all these letters and they look at me in this big house, a nice car and wonderful family and think, "Oh, this is how your life [inaudible 00:12:36]." Oh, no, baby, uh-uh (negative), this is not where I began. And so really unpacking what helped me to be successful.

               And then I've implemented that as a teacher, as a school counselor, as a mental health therapist, as assistant principal, principal, district administrator and a juvenile detention officer. So I've done a lot of this work myself with children and children like me, who've been impacted by trauma. So if you tell me that a child impacted by trauma can't be successful, then you just undermine my life.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Plashan McCune:

You understand? So a lot of times I don't say all that, I just share how I've impacted other children, how I've impacted children. I've had children that when I was a teacher, a school counselor, a school administrator, that have told me different things like, "I'm not supposed to be here." And we talk about the power of listening. What does that say to you?

               Depending on your culture, on your experiences, you could assume a lot, but if you are trauma informed and culturally responsive, then you say, "What does that mean when you tell me, 'I'm not so supposed to be here'?" You lean in and you listen. And so what I've heard is, "I'm not supposed to be here because my mother was raped. And that's how I came to be." You wouldn't know that. Where would you have found that truth? Unless you leaned in and listened and you heard from that baby's mouth. And I said, "Wow, how often do you hear that?" And the [Showman 00:14:25] said, "Every day." And that-

Speaker 1:

So you had to be, as an adult, as a staff, faculty and staff, you have to have a relationship with your [crosstalk 00:14:41] students in order for them to open up. So I do agree that cultural responsiveness, trauma informed care, they should be connected with that relationship. Not every kid is going to just open up and say that to you.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Right. [crosstalk 00:14:56] But that's the foundation of those. The foundation of being culturally responsive and trauma informed is relationship. You can't be either. You can understand the technology, the practice, the theory, you can understand the theory, but if you don't understand that the theory matters not unless you have a relationship and that the foundation of the theory is the relationship. So this one story that I shared with you, I was assistant principal at a school in Oakland at the time. And I had literally enforced some rules that was cracking down on some crazy stuff that was happening on campus. Literally, I was having kids raped, having kids knifed, having kids bringing loaded guns to school, all these things I was experiencing every day on this campus.

               And so I decided to crack down and say, "We are going to put some rules and some routines in place to make everyone feel safe." Because it was chaos. So if a kid got in trouble, or if they're late for class, "Oh honey, hurry up to class. You know you're late." I was like, "Y'all some punks. That's not how we... What is this?" I'm like, "So you expect me to be out of my office..." And it was a 52 acre campus, "Around this campus, just telling kids all day, 'Go to class. Why are you late?'" I was like, "No wonder it's pandemonium. This is crazy." You don't do that. If you're closely responsive and trauma informed, you create safe spaces and that the adults hold everyone, including themselves, accountable for being responsive for consequences. But those consequences are from love, they're not punishment.

               "I'm going to punish these kids." It wasn't about that. So when I started creating, because they didn't exist, creating rules and consequences and expectations, then I was able to then find those young people, because they ended up being in my office, right? Sitting in those spaces where they're being held accountable. And I would just say, "So why can't you get to class on time? What's going on? Talk to me."

               So instead of saying, "You're suspended and get out," and all this stuff, I would just sit down with each one of them. "What's going on? Talk to me. You've been late 45 times out of 46, tell me what's going on. How can we help you get to class? Talk to me, babe, what's going on?" And that's when they would say stuff that had nothing to do with being late for class, but had everything to do with what was going on in their hearts and in their minds and their spirits that kept them from being able to do what they needed to do. But if I didn't crack down on the rules... And I had literally, every period, I think I had 700 kids late for class.

Speaker 1:

Every period?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Okay. Every period, seven periods. And I was like, "I don't understand how people can exist in spaces like this. You all are nuts."

Speaker 1:

Right.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

But when I started cracking down on it, I was able to have a group that I could wrap my arms around and really get into their lives and figure out the root causes of what was going on with them. I had kids that were living in their cars. I had kids that had been in foster homes for 10 years, group homes. And they were only ninth graders, like baby, "You was a baby when you were put in the [inaudible 00:18:20]." But I wouldn't have known that until the routines and the expectations were so tight that it was just the problem kids that I needed to deal with, those that really needed more intervention.

               And those kids, once we created a system of support around them, were able to be successful. So that's why I'm like when I see people making excuses like, "Oh..." Because when I asked them questions like, "So what data do you want to change?" Because mine was just attendance. I just focused on attendance, getting to class, getting to school on time, that caused our scores to increase. It caused everything that was bad to decrease, and everything that was good to increase. And so when people tell me, "Well, it won't impact the data for three years." I have to be neutral and professional, but inside I'm like, "You a lie," because if you're doing it right, if you're creating tier one systems that are really tight, then it helps you narrow down the tier two and the tier three with that, you can wrap your arms around those challenges.

               But if you're tier one, your basic things, your consequences, your communications, your culture and your climate aren't tight, there's really not much learning going on, first of all. Everyone's unhappy, the kids are upset, the teachers are mad, because it's crazy and they work in a zoo. So that just really bothered me because we only get one chance for kids to do it right, one chance, and once that time has passed, their life, they have to undo so much stuff that we could have intervened on and help them have a better path. So I get a little upset.

Speaker 1:

And understandable. I can definitely sense your passion. And again, you said, "I personally identify, this is where I came from, so I can definitely relate to a lot of my students." And so I hear the passion in your voice. One of the things that you mentioned regarding the trauma informed care and you mentioned tier one, tier two, tier three. So I'm assuming at your school, there was some sort of multi-tiered system, maybe PBIS or RTI or something like that. How does that connect with trauma informed care? Is that a mandatory system that needs to be in place in order to really support your students from a trauma informed care perspective?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Yeah. So in my book I actually include PBIS as part of it, because it helps you to kind of systemize what you're doing. So you can do something consistently, fairly, everyone knows their place. Everyone knows their role and that's what students need. That's what children need. Children need to know, "If I push up against this, what's going to happen, and if I push up against this, what's going to happen," because that's how they feel safe. That's how they figure out who they are by kind of bouncing off these different things. And then if I push and I'm just falling through and I can just do whatever I want, I don't feel safe. I don't feel loved. Now, the tiers, it actually just gives you a way of thinking about it in the sense that if we look at tier one, 80% of your students should be doing what they're supposed to do, 80%.

               If 80% of your students aren't doing what they're supposed to do, there's something wrong with your systems. There's something wrong with your culture, there's something wrong with your climate, there's something wrong with how the adults... We're not talking about the kids, how the adults are doing their business and interacting and relating with each other. Because school, for kids, is like family. They just go from their family at home to their family at school. And so they should know that there are specific things that the family at school does that they can depend on. And so if that tier one is not straight, that means the family's out of order. The leader needs to look at some things, staffing, how the staff interacts, how they support the staff, how they understand, how they work together. That's what that tier one says, is that we're not working together well or else our students would be... 80% of our students should be good.

               They should be doing what they're supposed to be doing, on track, all that stuff. And then you have your 15%, which is your tier two. Those are the ones that you need to do a little bit more work, not a whole lot, to kind of tighten up and then they'll fall in place. And then you have your 5%, that's going to need some more intensive. So then those are usually your students with special needs and stuff like that, that will need more intensive supports. So you follow those IEPs, if they're done correctly, they should be okay because your tier one is solid. One of the schools I led in Oakland, once I tightened out that tier one [inaudible 00:23:20], oh my gosh. Literally I had teachers like, "I love you so much, Dr. McCune. You worked a miracle on this campus," because it was so much fighting and so much discord on campus that they couldn't even take a break and take a coffee and walk outside.

               Literally, I was walking across campus and a teacher came up to me with his coffee cup and he said, "Dr. McCune..." He said, "Look at this." Remember this is 52 acres, so it's like a college campus. He goes, "Look at this." And I was like, "Yeah." He's like, "No kids, it's peaceful. I can walk outside with my coffee." He said, "You did this." I said, "No, we did this, we did this, because when we worked together, we were able to accomplish this. If any one of you all had not done what you're supposed to do, it falls apart. It falls apart. As a system, we understood our roles, we implemented, we're doing this consistently. And now look at our kids." I would get emails from teachers taking pictures of kids running to class because they didn't want to get caught up being late. She said, "I've been here 23 years, I have never seen a child run to class." I was like, "Praise the Lord."

Speaker 1:

Amen. I hear you.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

When the family is tight, we got it under control. The kids are happy, they had a senior... I forgot what they call it. But seniors would take chalk, Chalk It Up. And they would draw around the campus and leave messages for people. And so one kid literally drew in the center, where everyone has to come and go and he drew... You know that pyramid that's on the dollar with the eye in it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

And he drew that and around it, he put, "Dr. McCune is watching you." And someone thought, "Ooh, [inaudible 00:25:19], look what he's drawing." And they thought it would be offensive to me. And I was like, "No, he knows that someone's watching out for him, and he wants everybody to know that he saw." And he was one of the quiet kids. He wasn't even one that got in trouble, but he knew someone was watching out. And that's the kind of systems that our kids need from the top, from our superintendents, through our custodians. They need to all feel like they're working at this together. And then our kids feel like they're benefiting from all of us doing this together.

Speaker 1:

And this is all part of the framework in your book?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

It is because in the book, it addresses what boards and directors and superintendents need to be doing, like the resources and the supports information. They need to be getting all the way down to students and what they can be doing to make sure they're getting this information and being able to share it at home and their communities.

Speaker 1:

So if I'm a school administrator and I'm listening to this episode right now, and I got all kind of thoughts, but let's say I'm not as familiar with this, but I know trauma informed care is important. Or I thought we were doing it, but maybe there's some tweaking that needs to happen. What would be some of the first steps that you would recommend that a school administrator should start or look towards to kind of shift their culture when it comes to the practices that they're doing already?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

So, first of all, I would tell them to get the book and maybe call me or email me, would be what I'll say, because what I did was not easy. Literally, it probably took a month of me just analyzing, kind of taking stock of my school and saying, "Who are my strong people? And what are my weak spots? And what have they tried before and failed at? And if I do this, who do I need in my corner, on my side and where could it fall through gaps?" And then actually talking to my staff. So I put some plans together because a whole bunch of them were going to quit because they were tired of the chaos. And so they kept coming to us as administrators saying, "Do something." And so I shared that I was working on a plan and that I would let them know once I at least had it on paper and it made sense to me.

               And so once I did that, then I bought a group of people who were... I would say, had a lot of social capital on staff because you have teachers that everyone looks up to and then you have teachers that people are like, "They suck. They're crazy. I don't even want to be in the same room with them." And so those teachers who had a lot of social capital, they wanted to be a part of what I was doing. And so I bought them together and they became my, what you call a PBIS team, and so we created systems, but we also pushed at those systems said, "Well, what if we do this? What if we try this? What are the barriers? What are weak spots here? And how can we fill this in?"

               And then we rolled out different plans and we said, "Okay, on this day, we're going to start this, but these are the things we're going to do next, but we're letting you know, this is the first step." And so we did this and we made that solid first, that there were no gaps. For example, one of the first things we did was a lunch detention. So if you were caught doing so and so, this many times, you went to lunch detention, and we made sure that was solid. We had someone watching it. We made sure that the lunches were delivered on time. The kids weren't hungry, all those pieces that would make something fall apart. That takes work, just even to do a lunch detention. And then we talk about in-school and we talk about communication to families, and then following up with teachers to make sure they were implementing in their classroom, the different strategies, going and observing them.

               Because if I said, "Every door needed to be closed when that bell rang," and I had a teacher that wasn't at the door to close that door, we had problems. We had problems. That teacher was like, "Oh, Dr. McCune going to get me." But it wasn't like I yelled at anyone or any like that, but it was just like, I was going to hold you accountable. And the students would tell me. "So and so teacher didn't close their door on time," because they knew what we were trying to do. And they wanted it. I would be walking on campus, I had a kid walk past me and say, "Dr. McCune, look over to your right, it's a group, they're trying to start some stuff." And then just keep walking. They would just tell me stuff, because they didn't want the chaos.

               They wanted stuff to be calm and peaceful and to enjoy school. Once we started it and we just did that constant back and forth, communication back and forth, adjusting... And I included the kids, the kids' voice were all over. I was like, "Okay, what do you want your school to look like?" And they were like, "Oh, this and that." I was like, "So how can we encourage this? How can we promote this?" We did assemblies where every month we recognized outstanding teachers that were holding up to the things that we were trying to do. Outstanding students. We had just celebrations about the culture and the climate. And also just the good things. The grades that were improving, the test scores. So we had consequences, but we had so much fun too, and just balancing it out. And that's what a family should be.

               We should be able to work together, work hard and enjoy the fruits of our labor and have fun together. And so it was that balance that really helped, literally, from the start of really doing it piece by piece and putting it together to where it was just flowing, was three months.

Speaker 1:

Three months.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

So when people say, "We won't see any data for three to seven years." I go, "So you just wasted three to seven years of those kids' lives. You won't even know who they are anymore."

Speaker 1:

They graduated by then.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

That's what I'm saying.

Speaker 1:

So I know some folks that are against PBIS, they think that it basically rewards the good kids and continues to punish the bad kids because the bad kids can never get the incentives and all those type of things. What do you say? How do you respond to those type of comments that are made?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Well, I could be rude and just say, "You're not creative." I could say a lot of things, but what I would say is you get to make your own systems. No one tells you what to do. I mean, they give you ideas. So for example, I did a lunch and learn. And what I did was I asked my teachers and my assistant principals, I said, "Bring me the worst kids to have lunch with. The ones that's always in trouble. I want to have lunch with them." I think I did it once a month. And what I did was I also had a teacher with me who all the kids loved, and so we had lunch with them. And I had my secretary in there taking notes so that I could just engage and listen and have fun with the kids instead of worrying about keeping record.

               And so I asked them, "Who are the teachers in the school that are rocking it? You love going to their class. You're learning it. They hold you accountable, but you enjoy learning from them." And then they would talk and stuff and share. And I was like, "What are they doing that makes it good for you? What's working?" And they would say, "Well, when they do this and when they do that." And then I'll say, "Okay, who are the teachers that are sucking?" They just [inaudible 00:32:55], "I hate going to class, I'm cutting," whatever. And then I would say, "Why? What's going on in there?" And usually it was the teachers that weren't holding them accountable.

               They didn't care enough to enforce the rules, different things like that. And so from the worst kids in the school, the teachers got rewarded. So every month, they would get a certificate, a gift card. And we would share about those teachers and what those teachers are doing, and that their students were the ones who were saying this about them. So it's all about being creative, and not just rewarding the good kids, because you can reward those who are making progress, the MVPs. It's really thinking about your school and your students and your teachers, and what do they need, and then setting the system up to benefit them.

Speaker 1:

There you go. I want to know something, it's related, but it kind of goes back to the beginning of the conversation where you were sharing, "I can personally identify with a lot of the challenges that a lot of my students were facing or have been facing." Who is someone that is probably, you would say is... Maybe beyond your parents, that is probably the most influential person in your life that maybe served as a mentor, or really has been supportive in throughout your life and career?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

So I can't say that there was any one person that has been there. I feel like I've had different angels along... As Oprah talks about, different angels along my walk, right? So there was my godmother who I adopted her as my godmother, who was really just my neighbor, down the street. And it was a safe place for me to go. There was my fourth grade teacher, because I failed and had to do fourth grade twice. And she saw my potential and said, "You should be in your right grade. And we're going to do whatever we need to do this year to get you back to where you're supposed to be." And she kicked my butt, gave me extra work and all kind of stuff, to get me back on track. There was different teachers like my geometry teacher who played music during our tests, "On the Night Shift," stuff like that, to help relieve our stress because math was one of those very stressful subjects, even though I did well in it, it stressed me out.

               My senior English teacher who was this big... And most of my teachers were black, but this one was white and she was a big white woman. She wore these humongous black [inaudible 00:35:37] glasses. And I was sick a lot. I had a lot of illnesses and this was my senior English teacher and she knew I was trying. And so she came up to me and I was sprawled out across the desk. I was in so much pain, the medication that they were working with me wasn't working yet. And so she was like, "What do you need so that you can stay in class?" And I said, "I just need to lay down." She literally let me go lay down on the floor in the back of the class. And the whole class is looking like, "What's that about?"

Speaker 1:

Right.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

She's like, "I'm the boss of this class. She needs to lay down, she can lay down." And then she asked me questions from the floor. She's like, "Plashan, so what's the answer to five? So how does Macbeth, blah, blah, blah?" And I was like, "Well, he was doing this, and so based on that, he understood this and he blah, blah, blah, this." And she's like, "Exactly. That's why she has the highest points in the class." You know what I'm saying? So it was so many people that saw past my crap, whatever was going on with me and said, "She has potential. How can I build on that?" Instead of looking at my circumstances.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for sharing that. I think that was important. I definitely consider you, Plashan, as a voice in Leading Equity. What is one final word of advice that you can provide to our listeners?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

I would advise people to listen and to be gracious with themselves and with others, we can change the world that way.

Speaker 1:

Okay. I agree with that. If we have some folks that want to work with you, we have some folks that want to get involved in the African-American girls project that you have working on or any other ways that they can connect with you, what's the best way to reach you online?

Dr. Plashan McCune:

I would say just go to our website, higherlearningu.org, Higher Learning U the letter, not the word Y-O-U, and just email me from there, in the info piece, I'll get it or email me at [email protected] And that both of those work. And I would love to work with anyone who cares enough about our kids and our community to do better.

Speaker 1:

You heard it, she said it and she's ready, she's ready. Once again, I'm talking to Dr. Plashan McCune, author of Trauma and Postsecondary Success, A Framework For Systemic Change. Thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Plashan McCune:

Thank you.

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