Planting seeds

Ashley Dixon didn’t see a lot of community activism as she grew up in Parsons. But while she attended colleges in New York and Nashville, Dixon involved herself in numerous causes: Diversity training, workers’ rights, immigration and anti-racism efforts.

Now, as an Iola resident and a campaign director with Kansas Appleseed, Dixon wants to bring the skills she learned as a community organizer to southeast Kansas. Over the next three years, she’ll be working with counties throughout the region to register voters and reduce food insecurity.

“Growing up, I didn’t see people around me who were organizing and I thought it would be great to bring that back here,” Dixon said. “There’s so much power when people come together.”

DIXON moved to Iola Feb. 1. Kansas Appleseed established an office for her at Thrive Allen County. Though the two organizations may coordinate their efforts on projects, they aren’t directly related.

Kansas Appleseed is a state-wide nonprofit organization that advocates for laws and policies for vulnerable and excluded Kansans, particularly on issues affecting children, immigrants and the fair administration of justice. Dixon’s position is made possible by a three-year grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.

Kansas Appleseed’s symbiotic relationship with Thrive and the trail system in Iola drew Dixon to move to the city. She hopes Thrive’s connections will help her meet and develop relationships with residents. She also enjoys hiking and is excited about exploring the trails.

Most of her time, though, is spent on the road. She organizes meetings to teach people about community organizing, and she’ll help residents establish and work toward goals. She’ll organize teams of volunteers to help people register to vote, especially those who have been incarcerated.

So far, her focus has been in Pittsburg and Chanute, and she’ll soon have a meeting in Independence. She expects to begin organizing meetings in Iola this summer.

She attended a recent community forum in Iola to discuss food insecurity. That’s one of the areas she’ll cover when she organizes community conversations here. It’s important for residents to identify key areas that contribute to lack of food, she said. That could include such things as a lack of affordable housing or transportation.

AFTER DIXON

graduated from high school in Parsons, she attended Bard College in New York and graduated with a degree in anthropology. She earned a master’s degree in education policy from Vanderbilt University.

At Vanderbilt, Dixon led efforts to increase diversity-related themes in classes. Those efforts led to new critical race theory classes and the hiring of a dean of equity, diversity and inclusion. She also worked on projects related to workers’ rights and with anti-racist organizations.

She’s looking forward to teaching people how to help others register to vote.

The Iola Register

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