Laura Greenfield receives national youth warriors against poverty award

Laura Greenfield of Paris, Kentucky has been awarded the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award by the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

As the member-leader of KFTC’s Environmental Justice Analysis Work Team for the Empower Kentucky Project, Laura collaborated with other KFTC members to strengthen and deepen our approach to doing an environmental justice analysis for Kentucky, helping us to better understand the relationships between pollution, health, race and poverty.

Laura worked diligently on this project for almost a year, helping all members of the work team understand and shape the analysis, including contributing to the goals, process, data, key choices and decisions, and interpretation of results.

Laura led monthly conference calls, facilitated meetings and helped to frame up choices for the work team in ways that made it possible for people not well versed in statistical analysis to participate in a meaningful way. And she used her skills and education to help illuminate people’s experiences, create tools and products that communicate relevant data in powerful and accessible ways, and shine a light on racial and economic injustice.

The results Laura and the work team produced illuminate some complicated but important relationships between pollution, health, race and poverty in Kentucky. Their analysis finds that pollution from Kentucky’s energy sector is “directly, strongly and positively correlated with health problems in Kentucky.”

It also finds important differences in the types of pollution that affect Kentucky’s poorest counties, compared to the types of pollution affecting our counties with a high percentage of people of color.

This finding underscores the point that if we want to create policies that reduce pollution affecting vulnerable communities in Kentucky, it’s not enough to just have an economic justice lens. We also have to have an explicit racial justice lens.

In other words, strategies and policies that aim to reduce pollution in regions of Kentucky with the highest degree of poverty are not the same strategies and policies that are needed to reduce pollution in areas of our state with the highest share of people of color. Both are important and needed.

Throughout the process, Laura has shown her strong commitment to protecting and uplifting vulnerable people and communities. She has demonstrated exceptional abilities to help groups of people use data analysis and mapping tools to better understand and tell the story of conditions affecting their lives and communities. Her work over the past year to generate an Environmental Justice Analysis for Kentucky is evidence of her commitment and ability to contribute to meaningful social change.

“I cannot even express how honored I am for the nomination and for receiving this award, how excited I am for the continued work ahead, and thankful for organizations like KFTC which work daily to fight poverty and all injustice,” said Laura.

The Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Award is presented by the Marguerite Casey Foundation to recognize and honor the vision, passion and dedication of young people to improving the lives of families and their communities. Twenty-three year old Laura and the other honorees (that includes Julie Jent of Berea who works with Opportunity Youth United) received an award of $5,000 in recognition of their leadership.

Luz Vega-Marquis, CEO and president of Marguerite Casey Foundation, said of the honorees: “These young people are inspirations to us all. Their activism, rooted in their own personal experiences, reminds us that each of us can make a difference by simply standing up for what is right and what is needed in our communities. By stepping up to remake their communities and their world, each of them is carrying on the legacy of Sargent Shriver.”

Laura Greenfield at MCF