The Easterseals team would like to give a huge shout out to our very own Brandi Lewis, who has been recognized as the 2019 Emerging Leader by the National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter, Region 6. Lewis manages Prosperity for All, an Easterseals program funded by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati with a big mission: to move entire families out of poverty. Lewis shared that decreasing any disparities in the world is extremely important to her as a social worker.
“We are proud to be able to offer a new approach to getting out of poverty by working with the entire family,” Lewis said. “We are most proud of being a new innovative program that is located nowhere in the city but Easterseals.”
The people served by Prosperity for All are the breadwinners in the family (parents or grandparents) who have children and desire better employment. Most often, that requires education to obtain an industry-recognized credential so that they can receive a higher rate of pay or livable wage. “This could be someone who has been in the same field but wants to learn and earn to get into better benefits or whole new employment interests,” Lewis said.
Going to school to earn that credential isn’t always so simple. Barriers can include lack of reliable transportation and quality childcare, previous run-ins with the law, low literacy, training costs, and lack of connection to community resources.
Prosperity for All works to clear these roadblocks by connecting participants to necessary community resources such as daycare subsidies, budgeting resources, clearing legal hurdles, assessments, and funds to help with training and housing.
Once those obstacles are better managed, the participants can refocus their energies on training for in-demand careers. Past graduates have launched new careers as medical assistants, state tested nurse aids, phlebotomy technicians, logistics technicians and in manufacturing.
Another key to Prosperity for All is its unique style of case management. Lewis and her team use a technique known as motivational interviewing and have the participants create vision boards of what they want the future to look like for themselves and their families.
“That’s a tool that I learned being a social worker as a way to kind of gauge where someone is and how can they get there at the maximum place,” Lewis said. “Sometimes people just aren’t motivated enough to get to those work goals. We’ve got to make sure we treat everybody with dignity and respect. These are social work pillars, and we incorporate it into our work.”
In addition to job training and case management, Prosperity for All participants also learn valuable skills in budgeting, resume building and interviewing.
“I love to hear when folks get a wage increase that they needed to take care of their family,” Lewis said. “I am proud to see when someone had a legal record that they have been able to get expunged and they can begin their lives again. I love to see the joy on faces of what support of Prosperity for All provided.”
In the span of her career, Lewis has worked with children (to keep them from being abused and/or neglected), those with disabilities, people who had been incarcerated, and the elderly (to try to get them access to medicine). “I’ve been able to touch a lot of different lives,” she says.
Lewis’ passion for social work comes from her own life experiences. She explains, “I wanted to be a lawyer when I was young, so I think I was always an advocate for the underserved. I was always the person that would say ‘leave her alone’ or ‘leave him alone’ at school. I was always a protector so I think the wanting to have justice started early for me.”
She goes on to explain how as a teenage parent, she needed to access certain social services. Those experiences would eventually influence her own career path.
“How people made me feel, I took that and either said, ‘I’m going to do like you’ and then to others I said ‘I’m never going to treat people like you’ and so it formed and it shaped me for who I wanted to be as a professional person. That really meant a lot to me that I’ve been on both sides of the desk. I can relate to being a service provider and I can also relate to a person needing services. That’s where my passion came from,” she says.
Lewis is not only passionate about her work, but a very serious social worker as well. She explains how she is not just an Easterseals employee, but rather a social worker for Easterseals.
“Being licensed and credentialed, it carries the greatness of being a part of the social work community but it also brings the heaviness of doing good work. People can’t walk around saying they’re a doctor without being licensed by the board. I carry that the same way with social work. I carry it with a brand of dignity and I want people to know that this is what social workers do. They aren’t people who don’t visit kids who need to be seen. They aren’t people who treat people badly. They aren’t people who don’t respect others. Social workers are the opposite of that.”
It is clear that Brandi Lewis has done great work here at Easterseals, and we want to give her the warm congratulations she deserves.
To learn about eligibility and enrollment in Prosperity for All, call 513-475-6794.
The National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter, Region 6 includes Adams, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Highland, Lawrence, Pike Scioto and Warren Counties.
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