Leitha Harris is a 15-year State employee, currently serving as the Human Services Program Support Section Supervisor in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in Kentucky. The Program Support Section is responsible for all of the SNAP and TANF State plans, State regulations, associated contracts and federal reporting. She chose to participate in the Learning Academy because she saw it as an opportunity to assist Kentucky in the process of transforming and expanding its SNAP E&T program. Kentucky's plan includes transitioning from a mandatory to a voluntary program, expanding services to all SNAP recipients who want to volunteer, continuing to grow contracted service providers, and spreading the program across the State.
Learn more about Leitha's experience in the Learning Academy:
Describe your experience in the Learning Academy. What were your biggest takeaways? What sessions or experiences impacted you the most?
My biggest takeaway from the Learning Academy is the networking opportunity it provided and the connections made with other States' program leaders and learning how E&T is growing in other States. Most monthly sessions had a specific topic and included a brief situation to study, learn, and provide group responses. Hearing the responses from different State agencies, community based organizations and others provided a valuable opportunity to learn about and understand the different approaches to the program.
In your specific role, how did the Learning Academy support you in building your skills and having an impact on SNAP E&T?
The monthly support call with my Learning Academy lead was very beneficial in allowing me the opportunity to discuss specific situations and project details. This assistance allowed me to gain confidence in my knowledge and enabled me to assist others in my State as we expand E&T.
Tell us about your Learning Academy project. How did it advance your learning? How does it help advance SNAP E&T?
The SNAP E&T Potential Provider Packet was the Learning Academy project from which I learned the most. The only way to grow the program is to grow partners offering E&T services. The packet is a key tool in developing new partners. The packet includes information explaining the E&T program and funding rules, program provider handbook, a survey for potential partners, steps to becoming a partner, and a clear and detailed budget proposal template. Having the potential provider packet developed helps all parties along the path to partnership and is easy to share with new contacts.
What advice would you give to future Learning Academy participants? Is there anything you know now about preparing for the Academy that you wish you would have known before you started?
Future Learning Academy participants should come with an open mind and be prepared to learn from the national office and other States how the E&T program can grow and serve SNAP recipients. Be open to how diverse E&T can be, from State to State and even within each State, as area needs differ. There is no one way to run the program and that is what makes E&T so beneficial to States.
What are your plans for the future? How do you plan to continue your SNAP E&T work?
The E&T program will grow over the next year with a focus to increase E&T service providers. Also, a steering board is being developed for current and future partners and program assistance will continue to be provided for providers. Program assistance includes a new case management system, program materials, provider handbook, and program training.