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Gonzaga University partners with Catholic Charities’ Rob McCann, kicks off Hope Dialogues series with talk on poverty

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 10, 2021

Rob McCann serves as the CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, a nonprofit organization that focuses on eliminating issues in vulnerable communities.   (Courtesy photo)
Rob McCann serves as the CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, a nonprofit organization that focuses on eliminating issues in vulnerable communities.  (Courtesy photo)

As the academic year kicks off, Gonzaga University’s School of Education will continue its Hope Dialogues series to discuss issues around the Spokane area, first with a talk on intergenerational poverty.

Catholic Charities CEO and President Rob McCann launches the series Thursday with a lecture on the causes and effects of ongoing poverty, and how the community can take action to dismantle the systems keeping it in place.

“This is an opportunity where you have a bunch of students and professors in the room and we’re molding the minds of (Gonzaga students),” McCann said. “These are the people of our future and will be doing the work when I’m buried in the ground. So if we are having the hard conversations now, we all have better chances for the future.”

For Spokane County, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 12% of the population is in poverty. Of that number, 20% living in poverty are under the age of 18, 5% higher than the state’s level.

“That’s completely unacceptable,” McCann said. “We have to ask ourselves why it is that a quarter of us are living in poverty and the other 75% seem to be OK with that. I think that, until the community has an honest dialogue based in data and hope, it’s going to be really hard to solve that.”

When Yolanda Gallardo began as the dean of the School of Education in July 2019, she and her board wanted to create opportunities to discuss issues that prolonged oppression. The College of Education started hosting Hope Dialogues in 2020, but uncertainty of holding in-person mass events during the pandemic pushed things until spring 2021. There were two Hope Dialogues that covered topics such as social justice and LGBTQ issues before summer break.

“We wanted to have a space to engage in critical consciousness and ask questions about how we’re serving, who we’re serving and where the joys and opportunities for growth were,” she said. “That was the impetus for the idea, to say we need a framework, we need an avenue to be able to unpack issues in our community.”

Gonzaga’s School of Education works on cross-campus collaboration and collaborations within the community. Teaming up with Catholic Charities aligns with what Gallardo sees as a way to “create more synergy and build stronger relationships with the community.”

These talks are conducted through The Office of Pedagogy of Hope through Research and Practice, a space that provides new viewpoints of topics with current students that in turn affect K-12 pupils Gonzaga graduates will teach.

“I’m hoping to see our curriculum change to include our lived reality in our students so they can see themselves there and prepare the people for our students to serve,” Gallardo said.

Going forward, Gallardo and McCann have high hopes that the partnership and event will spark more action to eliminate issues such as intergenerational poverty. Gallardo believes platforms like Hope Dialogues will be a space at which people recognize the outcome of the conversations happening are worth the discomfort.

“Anytime you get the higher education and social service agencies partnering together all rolling in the same direction, there’s practically nothing we can’t do or solve.” McCann said.

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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