Alumni In Class News

October 23, 2018 at 10:48 am

Alumnus Talks to Class about Poverty in Southeastern Ohio

Jack Frech at table speaking with students

Jack Frech in Sociology of Poverty class

Ohio University alumnus Jack Frech, BSED ’72 and M.A. in Political Science ;00, who has more than 40 years of experience working in poverty programs and advocating for poor people in Southeastern Ohio, guest lectured in Dr. Stephen J. Scanlan’s Sociology of Poverty (SOC 3300) class.

A long-time Athens resident, Frech has dedicated his life to addressing poverty, as a teacher, welfare caseworker and social worker.

Frech shared numerous stories and insights with the students from his experiences working in the issue of poverty. He opened noting that while progress has been made over the last few decades in some areas, the situation of poverty in the United States is worse now than it was several decades ago.

Couching the conversation around policy applications and connections, Frech discussed a number of interrelated topics including education, health considerations, housing, wages, and the working poor. Speaking to popular misconceptions of the poor and poverty in the United States, he noted the need to get beyond getting caught up in distinctions between the deserving and undeserving poor, moving instead toward a culture and economy that does a better job of sharing our wealth and resources with those in need.

Frech challenged the students to consider the connections they had to poverty in their daily experiences, even when the issue might not be obvious to them. He ended by encouraging those interested in pursuing a professional path that addresses the issue of poverty that it has been both frustrating and rewarding while being worth every effort.

Students appreciated the time he spent sharing his insights.

“I was honored to hear the enlightening words of Jack. He has a grasp on poverty that many of us in society do not,” said Noah Barr, sociology, psychology and political science junior. “His insights on the working poor especially enlightened me, showing us that a core belief in our society of working hard and getting ahead is not a possibility for some people. His biggest lesson on sharing with people and not thinking about who’s deserving and who’s not, but sharing with human beings to help them I think will stay with me no matter what career I choose.”

Marilyn Icsman, a junior Journalism and Wealth & Poverty student, agreed, “Talking to Jack was a great way to get a perspective on the local realities of what we’ve been studying in class. I walked away with a better understanding of poverty in Athens and life outside the university ‘bubble.’ I’m thankful he took the time to share his many years of experience and expertise.”

Jack Frech from the side seated at table in class

Jack Frech in Sociology of Poverty class

Frech many years of public service include being deputy director of the Athens-Hocking-Perry Community Action agency for five years and the director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services for 33 years. Now retired, he recently served as a VISTA volunteer with the Mayors’ Partnership for Progress in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

In his professional life he was a founding member of the Have a Heart Ohio Coalition, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation and Ohio Poverty Law Center. He also served on the state’s Medicaid Advisory Board and on other poverty related boards and coalitions. He has presented testimony on poverty related issues at numerous federal, state and local hearings.

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