Reform Conference Host Committee
We are thrilled to be working with three extraordinary St. Louis based individuals/organizations to not only strategically engage the community in and around St. Louis with the Reform Conference but to also further the impact of our work at a local and regional level.
Big thanks to Stephanie Regagnon with Ava’s Grace, T-Dubb-O with HandsUp United and Chad Sabora with the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform & Recovery for serving on our official 2019 Reform Conference Host Committee. Learn more about them and the organizations they represent below!
Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program was founded in March 2010, with the mission of providing scholarships for higher education to children who have an incarcerated parent or primary care giver. Since that time Ava’s Grace has given and committed more than $600,000 to more than 30 students who are attending colleges and universities across the nation. Ava’s Grace Scholarship has been breaking the cycle of incarceration through the gift of education.
Stephanie’s vision for Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program was born out of her many visits to her mother during her incarceration. It was a vision inspired by the unlikeliest of things…a vending machine in visiting area of the prison.
As Stephanie sat waiting for her first visit with her mother in prison, she noticed that even before the other visitors sat down, they rushed the vending machine before heading back to their tables with their purchases. Children of all ages eagerly grasped candy bars, potato chips, and sodas as they hurried back to their tables where they carefully arranged the treats. It was a scene which made no sense to Stephanie on that first visit, but as time went on, she understood why the ritual took place each visiting day—these kids wanted their visits with their moms to be as special as possible, and one way to achieve even a tiny hint of specialness was to have their mom’s favorite treats purchased and waiting for her when she arrived.
Before that first visit, Stephanie had never been to a prison before, and quite honestly it wasn’t someplace she had ever dreamed she would set foot inside. No longer was Stephanie shielded from the ugliness of incarceration; no longer was the heartbreak and horror of watching someone you love be led away in handcuffs something to which she could not relate. These realities and so many more harsh lessons were hers to experience, accept, and overcome.
Stephanie was an adult when her mother went to prison, and that was a blessing she became ever-more thankful for as she watched young children visit their mothers in prison. She wondered how these children would ever recover, and how they would ever be able to overcome the separation from their mothers and all the damage that did to them.
Stephanie decided that helping the children of incarcerated parents was something she could do to turn an extremely negative experience into something positive. For her it was mental and spiritual survival to try to find purpose in what was happening to her family.
HandsUpUnited is a collective of politically engaged minds building towards the liberation of oppressed Black, Brown and poor people through education, art, civil disobedience, advocacy and agriculture.
T Dubb O is not just the average rapper talking about his trials and tribulations of his past street life. Dubb and his grass roots organization, HandsUp United, have been labeled America’s New Black Radicals. So whether he is reading to children at their monthly Books and Breakfast program, talking with the students at their Tech Impact program where they are teaching Black kids how to build websites, dropping off food to people in need, or throwing back tear gas at police Dubb truly stands with the community that he raps about.
The work he does in black and poor communities have taken him all around the world to educated people on the harsh realities of Black people in America. Dubb was even granted the opportunity to sit with President Obama in the Oval Office to discuss racial issues and systemic problems here in America. This meeting coined his phrase on his album The Drop, “I shook Obama hand with the same hand I sold crack with”.
T Dubb O is a lyrical and political embodiment of hard work and perseverance and his music reflects that gritty street influence combined with an increasingly mature world view.
Missouri Network for Opiate Reform & Recovery
The goal of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform & Recovery is to promote continuing opiate reform through legislative policy reform, education, awareness, harm reduction, and community support. They also provide real help for opiate recovery by means of housing, employment and legal assistance, and continuing support through the recovery process. Most importantly, they help to destroy the stigma of addiction by refusing to remain silent. Their services are not limited to opiates. They help anyone struggling with substances. They service the greater St. Louis area including St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Illinois, and more. They also have the ability to help individuals and families all over the country.
Chad Sabora is the co-founder and executive director of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery. Currently Chad runs Mo Network's harm reduction and recovery outreach center in South City St. Louis and heads their work on legislative policy reform. They offer various services to homeless, those struggling with substance use disorder, and their loved ones. Chad and Mo Network's mission in to continue to expand services based on evidence based solutions and continue to lobby for more effective drug policy in Missouri and the United States.
Chad is also a person in long term recovery from substance use disorder and due to his unique experience as a prosecutor and former heroin addict, he left the legal field to pursue drug policy reform advocacy. Since its formation Mo Network has helped to write, advocate, and pass numerous pieces of legislation in Missouri; first responder access to narcan, third party and OTC access to narcan, 911 Good Samaritan Immunity in Missouri, and access to medication assisted treatment in treatment, veterans, mental health, and family court.