Sylvia Elzafon

After a stellar 2019, Poetic gets another boost

by Allison Hatfield | January 30, 2020

On January 27, Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) announced its 2022 class. Among the 60 men and women chosen to study with former presidents, former presidential administrative officials, business and civic leaders, and top academics: Dr. HaeSung Han.

Han is co-founder and CEO of Dallas-based Poetic, which works to bring girls who have been exploited and trafficked out of the juvenile justice system and into intensive aftercare so that they can be empowered to create happy lives. Han says her Presidential Leadership project will “focus on deepening the work of Poetic in Dallas, while scaling our innovative model to end the cycle of revictimization for youth beyond Dallas.”

The nonprofit marked its second year in 2019, and by every measure it was a huge year.

In April, Poetic was named United Way Social Innovator of the Year, which came with a $75,000 award and “opened a lot of doors to national programs and other prestigious programs in Dallas,” Han says.

In May, Han was recognized as one of two 2019 Young Leader Award recipients by the Texas Young Women’s Foundation. The next month, BBVA chose Poetic co-founder Jennifer Tinker to participate in its accelerator program, designed to help participants enhance their operations to impact the lives of even more people. Also in June: The Stand Together Foundation chose Poetic to participate in an effort to break the cycle of poverty across the United States as part of its Catalyst Program.

Han and Tinker were named Nonprofit Team of the Year of D CEO magazine in August.

The awards and recognition are helping fuel the nonprofit’s impact. “In 2019, our programming served 84 girls,” Han says. The recidivism rate was 5 percent, meaning 95 percent of girls in the program did not return to the justice system.

“When we started in 2017, our goal was to look at the existing programs and say, ‘What can we do to make a difference so these girls are not revictimized?’ We have been very intentional in our work, and we are proud that these girls are better able to navigate their community and their environment so that they are not lured back into exploitation and have the strength to not go back to street life.”

As the United Way Social Innovator of the Year, Poetic is the advisee of Social Venture Partners, which for the last 10 months has helped the nonprofit refine and enhance its homeschool model. “Our program directly addresses the vulnerabilities that lead to exploitation and trafficking,” explains Han. “One of those vulnerabilities is unstable education, and so we have an on-site homeschool program to really target those girls who have been disconnected from the education system for years.” As an example, she explains that 17-year-old girl who hasn’t attended school for many years and has the credits of an eighth grader is unlikely to return to class or get a diploma, but through Poetic’s on-site homeschool she can earn the credits for a GED and either be enrolled in a college track or an occupational track.

That girls who have not been in school for years are showing up every day at Poetic to learn is remarkable, and while they’re there, they’re also accessing the other services Poetic provides, including trauma therapy and 24/7 support.

“We are evidence based,” Han says. “Everything we do is rooted in research. There is so much that says that validation alone isn’t enough. What you need is a push for change — the accountability and building of skills, and knowing in the time of crisis which skills to use to get you beyond that crisis.” That’s what Poetic is teaching. That’s how it’s quite literally saving lives.

Chelsea Robertson, teacher; Karen Tejedor, bilingual therapist; Nina Kang, program manager; Amber Wersonske, therapist; Sharita Stewart, case manager
Photo by Stephanie Drenka

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