Velma LaPoint

ED. NOTES- While KIDS still was in its formative stages, Dr. LaPoint invited us to attend and participate in an hunger/poverty education seminar held at Howard University. We knew Velma as we both were on the board of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood organization. At the conclusion of the conference, KIDS was no longer a small regional program but a program known to many of the players in the United States. We credit WhyHunger (our parent organization) for much that happened as a result of the Howard University seminar and workshop.


MEET: Velma LaPoint


Interview with Velma LaPoint

Let's start with where you are from and your background

I am a tenured Professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies at Howard University, Washington, DC. I have advanced degrees and professional development in school and mental health counseling, education, psychology and youth and family development from Michigan State University—and post-doctoral fellowships with senior researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), Emory University, and Cornell University.

What interested you in hunger and education?

I have always had a long-term interest in both hunger and education—the two areas go together as we advocate for youth, adults, and families. And the need to address hunger and education start before birth and throughout life. It is very hard to educate youth and adults who suffer from hunger. It is very hard to have a high quality of living with inequalities whether we look at the basics for youth, families, and communities in many areas: education, food and hunger, healthcare, housing, transportation, climate, and other life areas—both nationally and globally.

My interest in hunger and education reflect my caring about all people--stemming from my upbringing in my family in both urban and suburban lower and middle income communities. I developed an interest in college in the integration among research, teaching, service, and advocacy to reduce and eliminate inequalities and disparities in life areas. I chose to focus on children, families, and communities and especially among Black Americans and diverse groups of color—a reflection of my ethnicity.

What issues do you work on and why?

I have worked as a researcher, professor, practitioner, and activist. As a researcher I have served as a Principal Investigator, Co-PI, Senior Researcher, or Project Director on various projects: (a) education strategies to promote youth academic achievement, social competence, and career development and entrepreneurism including STEM; (b) school reform and culturally responsive education; (c) hip hop pedagogy at colleges and universities; (d) youth exposure to screens and marketing in digital culture; and (e) Black female college students health and weight management. A hallmark of my research and its application is its interdisciplinary, culturally responsive methods and analytics, and policies and programs to promote achievement, empowerment, and resilience among youth and families—especially those of African descent and those of color in vulnerable and underserved communities in the U.S. and globally. I led and participated in interdisciplinary and collaborative faculty, staff, and student teams at Howard University and external institutions. This included several Howard University and externally government funded projects including national conferences on the education of youth placed at risk, commercial influences on child development, and teen pregnancy.

As a professor I have created and taught graduate and undergraduate online and onsite courses related to (a) diverse youth of color and families in the U.S. with African, American Indian, Asian, European, and Latinx ancestries; (b) youth and families placed at risk and their resilience; (c) youth exposure to consumer and digital culture, screens, marketing. and challenges to communities and Earth; and (d) integrative, complementary, and expressive therapies to promote mental health and wellness. As an administrator, I have held high to mid-level administrative positions at Howard University and nonprofit professional organization where I led or collaborated on program and policy development, implementation, and evaluation.

What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

The biggest challenge for the issues that I care most about today are two-fold. The first challenge is having greater collaboration in understanding problems and generating solutions, including securing funding—among stakeholders locally, nationally, and globally. The second challenge is ensuring that there is equity in solutions, and eliminating biases, for lower income youth, families, and communities of color.

What drives you?

I am driven by continuing to engage in all my professional activities. I have engaged in various and continuous professional development and life-long learning, health and fitness activities, and global travel to learn about cultures of other people locally, nationally, and globally.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers?

My message to our readers is that we must continue to dedicate ourselves and engage in working to solve the challenges of hunger, education, and many related areas to promote human development, family and community life for the world and our Earth. We need to commit and re-commit ourselves to these goals as we also engage in self-care to remain committed.

What do you think your legacy should be?

My legacy should be is that I have been and remain committed to my family and extended family of community members whose lives I have touched. This includes the many thousands of students and others who have joined me, directly and indirectly in local, national, and global change. I am and was committed in working to do all that I could to collaborate with stakeholders to make our community, nation, and the world a better place now and in the future.

About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

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