A Call to Serve: Molly Crenshaw '08

A Focus on Parenting and the Next Generation
One alumna is working on creating a stronger Memphis community by preventing childhood stresses that lead to bad outcomes. Molly Crenshaw ’08 is the Universal Parenting Place (UPP) site director and parent coach at Perea Preschool in North Memphis. The UPP program is administered by the ACE Awareness Foundation. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences, which might be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, domestic violence, a parent with mental illness, divorce or separation, alcohol or substance abuse, or incarceration of a family member.

The five UPP sites around Memphis were created in response to research that showed that “toxic stress caused by chronic exposure to traumatic events in childhood is at the root of many poor adult outcomes … including violence, aggression, addiction, depression, and chronic diseases.” These stresses can affect anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, education, and other factors. It’s estimated that in any given population, about fifty percent of people have had one ACE.
“What we know now through the ACE study and findings from neurobiology is that the most brain development changes are from in utero to five years old. That’s your optimal time for change. We know that teaching parents skills, counseling them, and interacting with their kids—all of that is more beneficial in the long run than trying to catch kids at 14 or 18 when they don’t have as much ability to change.”
“We’re prevention,” Crenshaw said about UPP. “Ninety-five percent of federal dollars are going toward intervention; five percent are for prevention.” Without resources and support for prevention, Crenshaw added, federal dollars end up going toward medical care and government assistance. “With counseling, we are generally building a relationship with someone and establishing trust,” she said. “A lot of what we talk about is what parents went through in their own childhoods that is now affecting who they are and how they’re parenting their kids. We know things happen cyclically and that a two-generational approach is the best to provide lasting change for families.” In other words, the support provided to children is more effective when their parents are equipped with the proper skills to help them at home.
Crenshaw, who studied social work at the University of Georgia and then received her master’s in social work at the University of Texas at Austin, said she knew early on that this was the work for her. Her family (including sisters Wendy Crenshaw Bolding ’06 and Lucia Crenshaw McKnight ’05, who established the Hutchison Community Service Endowment Fund), would drive every Sunday from East Memphis to Calvary Church downtown. “I was concerned about the community in Memphis when I was little, and I noticed things that were not necessarily obvious to others.” She also remembered interacting with Perea preschool children who came to Hutchison for events.
“I told our principal at the time that I wanted to work with kids in our city, and now I am so grateful that it has come full circle.”

To read the full story from the April 2018 edition of the Hutchison School Magazine, click here.

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