Kristina Scott

Kristina Scott


When we think of others most of us approach and deal with them subconsciously on the same level as we are, meaning that we typically view others as living life like we do, with the same opportunities and choices.   So when issues like poverty are discussed, you can poll several hundred people about what they think about the issue and most will say that it’s an issue that has always existed and will always exist.  Others will say that people suffer in poverty because of the choices they make.  I believe both views are oversimplify the issue and do not deal with poverty’s root causes.

Kristina Scott, the Executive Director of the Alabama Poverty Project, spends most of her waking hours thinking about poverty and how we can change the focus from blaming those for the choices they make to instead educating the general population on what with the deep challenges facing low-income communities.  APP partners with communities of faith, higher education institutions and civic groups to tackle the issues surrounding poverty in Alabama.

Most will probably recognize the Alabama Poverty Project through its mobilization campaign, Alabama Possible. Alabama Possible was founded by a group of concerned citizens in 1993.   Founders included Alabama Historian Wayne Flynt and longtime Alabama Baptist Convention President Earl Potts.   They along with other concerned citizens wanted to provide leadership in poverty education with the goal of eliminating poverty.

Kristina joined the organization in late 2008 and reinvented how the organization inspires Alabamians to use their power to change their communities.    “Our Alabama Possible campaign was born out of the notion that when something is possible, we have the power to turn an idea into reality,” she said.

Alabama is the seventh poorest state in the nation.  Its also the hungriest state and has the second largest gap between rich and poor.  Although we have had wonderful gains in economic development in the past few years, those gains have not created sustainable growth in economic security for the state’s poorest citizens.

Kristina links that disparity to Alabama’s history of low educational attainment. “For many years, our economic growth was based on low skill, low wage jobs in agriculture, the garment industry, mining and timber.”  As a result, the importance of education, especially post-secondary education, was not emphasized in the state’s culture.  “Today, only 32 percent of working age adults in Alabama have a college degrees, compared to 38 percent nationally.”

Alabama’s gap in educational attainment impacts its ability to compete for high skill, high wage jobs in health care, automobile manufacturing and aerospace.    “By 2018, two-third of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education, whether it be a technical degree from a community college or a bachelors degree from a 4-year school,” Kristina said.

That’s why Kristina believes that improving education is a key component in eradicating poverty.   As the Vice Chair of the newly formed State Commission to Reduce Poverty, she will work to make policy recommendations to the Legislative and Executive branches.   Those recommendations will focus on legislation and policy changes to address the structural causes of poverty.

As for the argument about people who live in poverty needing to make better choices, is an easy way to sweep the issue under the carpet, I believe.   Kristina further dispels the argument by stating that the facts prove otherwise.  “Alabama has been one of the nation’s poorest states for more than 150 years, so people living in poverty are not there simply because of the choices they made.”  Kristina goes on to say that Alabama’s poverty is multi-generational, and thus is often the product of systems that are in place and which are bigger than any one individual can overcome.

Eliminating poverty is not going to happen with one or two organizations.  The business community also needs to play a role.   “Poverty is bad for business.  It shows that we are not maximizing our economic potential in the State.  I would like to see the business community strengthen investments in programs to create high-skilled jobs and job training, as well as work to make sure our K-12 students receive a quality education,” Kristina said.

There are some good programs in Alabama that are addressing certain issues that you see in communities with extreme poverty, like the Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham, Ala., that teaches people in low- income communities how to grow their own food and the value of nutrition.   Another example is Project Horseshoe Farm in Hale County, Greensboro, Ala., that works with that Black Belt Community by offering skills training in leadership and development as well as helping to increase the quality of education for K-12 public school students.  Kristina says it is projects like those that are doing the things we need to do on a bigger scale across the state.

I asked her what she thought about Republican Governor Robert Bentley’s recent appointment of his former opponent, Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Ron Sparks, to head the newly formed Alabama Rural Development Office.  The office was created by Executive Order and was specifically established to address issues of health care, education and economic development in some of Alabama’s poorest areas, the Black Belt being one of those.  Kristina stated, “This appointment shows that Governor Bentley considers rural areas important and that he is focusing efforts at the State level to develop those communities while improving their economic outlook and educational outcomes.”

Combined with efforts like the Poverty Commission and the new government efficiency commission, the Rural Development Office presents a real opportunity for Alabama to establish a multi-faceted solution to eliminate poverty.  Kristina said, “I hope that we can bring Alabamians together around the simple notion that we have the power to create a more prosperous and sustainable economy for all.”

If you would like to know more about Kristina Scott’s work at the Alabama Poverty Project, please visit

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