Jaraad Hines’s father grew up in segregated Detroit, in a family with 14 kids squeezed into a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
His mother, local OB-GYN Brenda Hines, grew up in a housing project in Queens, N.Y.
But neither of them ever felt that they lived in poverty.
“Both of them had parents who focused on having the right mindset, being careful about what they put into their bodies, having a support system, having strong relationships,” Hines said. “They were rich in other areas.”
Hines knows this is not “the normal story.” But he and his parents are convinced that it could be.
“There is nothing special about us as a family that made this possible,” he said. “Any family can do it.”
The Hines family established Hinesight, a Fredericksburg-based nonprofit that seeks to end generational poverty through family empowerment, in May 2017.
The organization held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month at its office on Princess Anne Street—in what the city is calling the Creative Maker District—that was attended by Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and other community leaders.
Hinesight is rooted in family—Hines is the executive director and his parents are on the nonprofit’s board.
“We’ve lived in Fredericksburg since 2001,” Hines said. “My mom owns a practice downtown. My two older siblings and I, we all went through city schools. We love Fredericksburg, and we see a lot of good things, but we also see a lot of areas for improvement.”
Hines attended kindergarten and first grade at the elite Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. When his family moved to Fredericksburg, he entered Hugh Mercer Elementary School, and for the first time, many of his friends came from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“One of my best friends lived in public housing,” he said.
“I feel like moving back to my hometown [after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2017] and seeing where some of those friends are now—in jail, with a few kids, at William & Mary—has been very eye-opening.”
According to census data, close to 17 percent of Fredericksburg’s population lives below the poverty line, a number that is higher than the national average of 14 percent.
Poverty rates in the city are highest among those age 25 and under, with 19 percent of women and 12 percent of men ages 18 to 24 living in poverty. Close to 9 percent of boys ages six to 11 live in poverty.
Hinesight was conceived as an educational foundation for middle school students, but as they did research, the Hines family became convinced that they needed to include the parents, too.
“That’s the missing component,” Hines said. “Otherwise, families will continue the same cycle. It’s hard for children to be successful with the lack of a support system to empower them.”
The nonprofit offers three programs—a mentoring program for youth ages 9 to 14, an “adult empowerment” program and a community service program.
The mentoring program matches students with community members who have been trained in the mentoring curriculum developed by the National Mentoring Resource Center and its Richmond chapter, the Virginia Mentoring Partnership.
Hines said there are seven mentor/mentee pairs. Many of the mentees were referred to Hinesight from local food banks. They include students at Lafayette Upper Elementary School and Walker–Grant Middle School, from single-parent and two-parent families. Some are residents of the Brisben homeless shelter.
“Poverty can look very different,” Hines said, noting that some families in which the parents have consistent jobs still live at or below the poverty level.
Hinesight’s adult empowerment program is an eight-week course that leads participants through the “Getting Ahead” curriculum developed by Ruby Payne, author of “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” and her company, Aha! Process Inc.
The premise of the program is that poverty isn’t defined simply by lack of income, but by lack of other resources, as well—including emotional, social, spiritual and physical resources.
“Language is a big resource,” Hines said. “It’s being able to speak to a potential employer versus how you speak to your family.”
Participants work on building up those other resources. Group sessions are facilitated rather than taught, Hines said.
“Instead of, ‘This is what you gotta do,’ it’s group-based,” he said. “We come up with solutions together. And it’s agenda-free.”
Participants in the adult empowerment program receive a $25 stipend—in the form of a gift card—per session.
“It gives them an incentive to commit and it also shows that we are invested in them,” Hines said. “And people usually say after a few sessions that they would come without it. That’s a common thing we hear.”
Hinesight’s newly hired administrative director, Shantae Watkins, 26, is a graduate of the adult empowerment program. She grew up in poverty with parents who have substance abuse disorder and said the program helped her “break the mentality of poverty.”
“There was a huge emphasis on changing your perspective,” Watkins said. “Living in poverty, you tend to think about the past and the present, but not the future.”
Though she was able to complete college with a degree in social work—after dropping out of high school and attending community college—Watkins said she didn’t realize until she took the course how little she planned for the future.
“I’d set goals, but they were very tentative,” she said.
The course also helped Watkins identify some personal strengths related to growing up in poverty.
“When you come from poverty, it’s all negative,” she said. “You feel a lot of shame. But the course helped me see some positives, such as that I’m a problem-solver, I don’t get overwhelmed and I’m good under pressure. My friends come to me for that. So that gave me a sense of pride.”
Hinesight’s third program hasn’t gotten off the ground yet, but it aims to bring youth and parents back together again to complete a community service project based on the 17 sustainable development goals identified by the United Nations in 2015.
The 17 goals include no poverty, no hunger, gender equality, clean energy, clean water and sustainable communities.
“Giving back is going to be one of our key metrics,” Hines said. “Going from seeing yourself as in need to being able to give back.”
Hinesight hopes its programs will fill a gap in Fredericksburg’s nonprofit community, by serving as a next step to transitioning out of poverty.
“There are great local nonprofits dealing with homelessness and food insecurity,” Hines said. “We don’t provide those raw needs, but a lot of [those nonprofits’] clients have come back to them still needing those things.
“There is more to poverty and more to wealth than finances.”