AWF’s Inspire Atlanta program strives to develop women leaders who will help affect real change for women and girls in our community. And it does. Over the course of five Inspire classes, participants have become volunteer leaders with AWF, joined nonprofit boards, led fundraising campaigns, and become stronger leaders at work. We’ve also been moved by the stories of Inspire participants, such as the case with class of 2022 member, Kristin Anunson. Kristin shares how participating in Inspire Atlanta has helped her to share her personal experience with poverty in her professional life and how opening up allowed her to help other women and girls.
I have always been open about my history in my personal life, but I was afraid being vulnerable in my professional life could hinder my career growth. I was worried there would be a stigma attached to me that would change the way I was viewed by my peers. I wanted to blend in and distance myself from my past. However, during the course of the Inspire Atlanta program, I realized that what I’ve been through perfectly illustrated how life-changing small acts of kindness could be. If I could allow myself to be vulnerable, then maybe I could help other women still facing that same financial vulnerability — women for whom my past is their present.
I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania in a former coal mining town. A lot of opportunities for work were lost when the coal mines closed, and low-income families were very common. My mother had me when she was sixteen and wasn’t ready for the responsibility of having a child both financially and personally. She had a drug addiction that lasted her whole life, which led to many prison stays.
I moved around between family members when my mom would end up in prison. After she had another trip to jail, I decided to go out on my own and become an emancipated minor. I lived in a subsidized apartment for 11th and 12th grade. I worked a lot of part time jobs to earn money while going to school, but it wasn’t enough. I always knew that I wanted more than what I saw around me. As a young girl, I would play pretend and I would imagine I was in college waiting tables. I did well in school and had a teacher that knew my situation and believed in me. I applied to colleges and decided on Temple University in Philadelphia.
I stressed over what I would do during school breaks since you can’t stay in the dorms during breaks. My apartment was $25 dollars a month, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but to me it felt daunting to pay just to have somewhere to come home to. Towards graduation, the teacher that encouraged me pulled me aside and gave me a check for $500 to pay for my apartment for the year. He said that I should have the same college experience as everyone else and not worry about a place to come home to. That generosity had a profound impact on my life. While $500 was probably not an amount that would affect his life, to me it was everything. That $500 gave me the confidence to become the first person in my family to graduate from college.
Programs that AWF supports help give women the same opportunity I had. Bus fare to get to work, security deposits for apartments, professional clothing, childcare, higher education etc. all are things that give that hand up to someone. I truly believe in the work that AWF does and I am proud to be in a position to give back to women and children the same way I was given a chance.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Kristin Anunson is the Operations Manager at Atlantic Station. She joined Hines in 2019 and is responsible for overseeing operations of 580,000+ sf of retail and the overall 138-acre site at Atlantic Station. Kristin comes to Atlantic Station with 15 years of experience in the field of real estate operations and management with a retail focus. She holds a BA degree in Communications from Temple University. She is an active member of the OneHines Ambassador program which focuses on DEI initiatives, sits on the Atlantic Station Civic Board, and is a new member of the ULI Program Committee. Kristin lives in Atlanta with her husband Mark, her seven-year-old son, her five-year-old daughter, and dog Coco.