Abra Fortson Poverty Spotlight

Meet the Social Development Commission (SDC)’s Executive Support Manager Abra Fortson:

How long have you worked at SDC?
I’ve worked at SDC since January 2012.

What do you do at SDC? Tell us how it helps in the war against poverty.
I staff our CEO and function as a liaison between the Executive Office and Board of Commissioners. Which is a fancy way of saying. I staff them as well. I am responsible for commissioner terms and compliance protocols like term limits, attendance records, commissioner on-boarding and public notice compliance. I am also responsible for project management and production of the Summit on Poverty.

What motivates you? Why do you do this work?
Knowing that so many people are living the experience of poverty and need access and opportunity to move beyond it. Knowing that much of this work doesn’t allow for dignity, respect and advancement because we’ve become accustomed to the belief that people choose poverty when I know they don’t.

Describe a time when you felt like your work at SDC made a difference in someone’s life.
Once I dealt with two HSED students who struggled with being held accountable for their actions. This is despite the grace an instructor showed them. The students came to my office lobbying for a different resolve (to a problem) and blamed the instructor for not giving in.

I listened patiently to their logic model, for their “why” and then I asked them to close my door. I took them to task and pointed out multiple areas of their appeal where their actions didn’t line up with their commitment to themselves. I explained how their lack of integrity should have earned them an exit but the mercy of the instructor they were trashing said different.

I strongly encouraged them to get the lesson and outlined how much worse the punishment could have been. I told them both that they needed to apologize to the instructor and thank her for not kicking them out of the program. I told them that if they continued to pursue an issue where they were clearly at fault, it could end in that very thing happening. They reluctantly complied.

I’d taken a risk which left them with two decisions: be accountable and self-correct or fight it and lose because they were wrong. They left my office.

The following year, I’m attending our GED/HSED graduation at the Armory. Low and behold, these two students come running up to me with their families to thank me for “keeping it real” with them.

One was enrolled in a bachelors’ program at UWM and the other was way pregnant and enrolled at MATC. We stood in that hallway in tears.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
Very few people know that I am an empath and highly intuitive.

Lightning Round Questions

This is where it gets really fun as we get to learn more about the things our employees like.

Dream vacation?
My dream vacation is anywhere that has white sand, blue water, has at least 85-degree weather, is all inclusive and is jazz festival adjacent.

Most recent book read?
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Favorite movie?
What Dreams May Come, 1998

Favorite song?
Craters on the Moon by PJ Morton and Chante’ Cann

Favorite athlete?
Mike Tyson

Favorite local restaurant?

Favorite hobby?
Fashion Styling (Specializing in Plus attire and eyewear)
Also, I’m a cigar aficionado (summer time only). I learn more every season.

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