Every day, when Richaun Bunton arrives to work at Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood (CCPN) (an initiative of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (SOCF)), she brings her whole self. Richaun roots herself in her personal and professional experience, her education as a social worker and marriage and family therapist, and the relationships she has built with families in Central. All of this helps Richaun to stay grounded throughout complex interactions about unmet needs, trauma, or policy implementation that are a regular part of her job.
“To be connected and grounded in my self is an important part of how I present myself in my environment,” she explains.
Richaun’s role as Education Performance Manager is to be a non-biased mediator and help families in transition and work with families who aren’t feeling heard.
It gives her the skill she thinks helps her the most, “my ability to remain calm in very tumultuous times.”
To address the educational needs in Central, their Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative allows the foundation, in collaboration with funders, residents and partners, to impact education themselves in a neighborhood that has been the historic home of the religious order’s ministries.
(The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine opened St. Vincent Charity Medical Center downtown 3 years before the first YWCA, in 1865, after serving as public health nurses since 1851.)
Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood (CCPN) allows Richaun Bunton to “help lift resident voice; help families feel connected to the neighborhood and see change they want to see in the neighborhood.”
“My passion is the therapy part of my background.”
Richaun advocates for the needs of parent leaders and families in Central to schools and the foundation itself to make sure meetings and initiatives are welcoming and inclusive to them and not just to the conveners.
“I work very closely with the schools, thinking about their redesign, connecting schools with the community and families,” helping schools and communities answer the question, “How do these intersect?”
She organized trauma trainings at Central schools to train teachers on how trauma affects the brain and communities as a whole, and explained what mental health services are available in the school. Even more, the training provided teachers with hands-on classroom activities they can do with students, including mindfulness techniques to build resiliency in the children and the teachers.
One school, she explains, suffered from high teacher absenteeism and turnover. Teachers receive second-hand trauma from their students and families, which can take a real toll on the teacher’s health and effectiveness. Beyond student interventions, the training helps schools provide teachers with healthy coping skills and social-emotional plans for educators. In turn, teachers can not only teach more effectively, but connect with families, too.
Bunton explains how social-emotional health is important for everyone, “When we get caught up in the minutiae, we are disconnected and not able to connect and help other people grow and evolve.”
What Richaun loves the most about our city is its ability to restore the spirit.
“Cleveland is a rejuvenating city. There is so much history shared between the different neighborhoods and staple monuments that have endured the test of time. Places such as Karamu house, the settlement houses, and Lakeview cemetery to name a few. If buildings could talk. We also have great restaurants, museums and parks.”
Richaun coaches residents for resident leadership and assists residents to get connected to other organizations. She helps them be ready to be a part of boards and committees and to become changemakers themselves.
She organized CiCLEvia to organize Central residents and families to build community connection with an event to raise physical, social, and emotional well-being. (The proposal explained “The name ciCLEvia is derived from the ciclovias of Latin American cities such as Bogota, Colombia, where over 70 miles of streets are open to people every Sunday.”)
Streets were temporarily closed to cars and opened to celebrate people-powered movement such as biking, walking, dancing, and other community organizing.
Richaun feels a deep empathy with women and especially to teen mothers. She explains that she was a teen mother and had “at one point someone who was there for me, to say: ‘Where you are today is not where you’re going to end up.’”
She empowers women by “helping to find their zeal and the divinity within them through addressing the impacts of anxiety, depression and trauma in their lives. Teaching healthy coping skills that can be done throughout the day. Sharing stories of triumph, tribulations and goals.”
A wide assortment of courageous women inspire Richaun.
“Women who endure. Women who get up every day and celebrate their womanhood. Women who learn themselves and then make a commitment to help other women do the same. Women who don’t allow their egos to impact their interactions with other women.”
Being recognized as a Distinguished Young Woman by the YWCA has been Richaun’s self-described greatest professional accomplishment.
“This honor acknowledges my commitment to service. It celebrates small and large wins that I have been a part of professionally. From working as a family therapist to creating programs to impact family and community engagement and education. This honor celebrates it all.”
Lowell Perry, former director of CCPN at SOCF, nominated Richaun for the honor and described her commitment to eliminating racism and empowering women this way: “Richaun has a strong commitment in this area. I know because of the many conversations we have had on the subject during the course of our work relationship. She never was shy about bringing these issues up during full SOCF team discussions and retreats dedicated to SOCF improving itself in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. Her comments were consistent with what she would say in our smaller Promise team meetings.”
When advocating for racial or gender inclusion, “I always start from a personal experience or how it’s going to impact someone I know. I‘m a human first. I’m a person first.”
She asks herself: “How would I want to be included?” She thinks of someone she knows with particular needs and thinks: “How is this going to impact them?”
She believes key to community engagement is “always being relevant.”
“Knowing the issues in your community. Being seen, being a part of the fabric of the community. Being connected, not just to the service providers in the community, but the families. Serve as an advocate.”
In addition to managing her career, dropping her oldest child off at college, and delivering twins, for the last 9 months Richaun has been in a development process to become a High Priestess at Nu Ast Temple.
Now that she has been at SOCF CCPN for two years, she is “looking forward to fine-tuning and getting involved in other organizations impacting my work.”