‘A helper by nature’: Meet the Harrisburg woman helping ex-inmates return to their community | Anwar Curtis

Kia Hansard -- Photo via Anwar Curtis

Accountability, this is a word that’s fairly easy to say; yet at times this word can be hard to put into action. Then there’s the word progress, which is something everyone wants to achieve but who truly benefits from it?

Anwar Curtis (Capital-Star file photo)

If you tuned into any one of central Pennsylvania’s media publications at any point in time during 2019, then you should remember around this time last year many residents throughout the Harrisburg School District were screaming for both accountability and progress.

Because let’s face it, many city students felt left out and enough was enough. Well when groups of people want to see change, then those groups more than likely take it back to a time when real change took place: the Civil Right’s and the Women’s Rights Movement and organizes inclusively.

Kia Hansard is a daughter, mother, and a resident of Harrisburg who’s always advocated for accountability and progress within herself and the Harrisburg School District. Hansard has a saying: “If you are committed to your community, then you are going to do right.” I have heard similar sayings from people. And I’ve questioned their authenticity. But Hansard is committed to her community.

Last year, when the stress levels in the city schools were high, Hansard, along with a few other concerned residents decided to take the grassroots approach, leading to the creation of C.A.T.C.H (Concerned About The Children of Harrisburg).

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For some, C.A.T.C.H seemed to be a group of people simply on a “witch hunt” who had personal vendettas against certain school board members and staff.

Well, I believe when something doesn’t seem right within an organization and a district full of parents are simply asking for better ways to keep their children safe and in a progressive learning environment, then a community liaison is needed, and Hansard and her follow C.A.T.C.H members advocated for that effective change.

Hansard and C.AT.C.H’s members felt that it was very necessary, from a grassroots standpoint, to educate adults who were uneducated and unpleased in the then-school board.

C.A.T.C.H would have sessions on teaching residents the difference between voting for a school board member and the process of a school board hiring superintendents. Hansard and her peers would also share information via social media, keeping residents informed on the climate within the school district and ways to encourage accountability during such a drastic school year.

When you educate the people, you get results.

And during the 2019 school board elections, the climate changed for sure. New school board officials were elected, and a couple were C.A.T.C.H candidates. Hansard was extremely pleased with the results and continues to push for not only accountability and progress but also transparency amongst her peers and current school district receiver Janet Samuels.

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Hansard also has a passion for helping formerly incarcerated people return to their communities.

Hansard is a director at the Center of Employment Opportunities, which is a workforce development program for both men and women who have been released from correctional institutions.

This means she is on the front line; making sure people who have returned home from doing prison time have the necessary tools to achieve a successful life after prison. Hansard helps ex-offenders find home and board, reliable jobs, and helps structure a system so that her clients can balance a life of normalcy. Being in this field helps Hansard hold her clients accountable and progress all at the same time.

If you are like me then you may wonder what inspired Hansard to tackle a career that requires a lot of integrity, trust, and simply being a forward thinker.

Her answer is rather simple.

Hansard  says she’s always been a “helper by nature” and Hansard also knows what it feels like to be the underdog and be written off and counted out. To be in a position to help those who may have similar sentimental feelings means the world to Hansard.

One thing Hansard shared during our conversation was the importance of family. For many of her clients, being as though they are not from the Harrisburg area means that their families may not be close by.

So, for many of her clients, Hansard is the closest thing to family. Hansard does not take that responsibility lightly and Hansard holds herself accountable in making sure her clients have the very best and progress in a world where second chances come a dime a dozen.

Thank you Ms. Hansard for your efforts and understanding the importance of accountability and progress.

Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of Pennsylvania’s capital city. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected]