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Hope, Change and the Adams Family

June 24, 2016


Hope.  It’s something every Memphian wants to feel about our beloved but beleaguered city. Memphis is flush with people and programs, non-profits and commercial enterprises with a desire  to solve problems and advance the well-being of all Memphians. How often, though, do you meet someone who not only fills you with hope that their efforts might make a real difference, but certainty that their efforts will reap success?

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kris and alisha

Kris and Alisha Adams

Kristoffer and Alisha Adams are people who inspire hope and confidence. They are a millennial power couple with a growing track record for community outreach that prepares rising generations to prosper, lead, and engage in  responsible citizenship. Their work ethic and successful partnership as a couple are an inspiration. Kris (a Memphis native) and Alisha (from Lexington, Tennessee) met in a Jackson, Tennessee bookstore. They both matriculated at the University of Memphis in 2009; working and volunteering their way through a persistent course of study in political science enriched with real-world community outreach. They married in 2010, and on June 14, 2016 welcomed their firstborn Irene into the world, one month after Alisha was awarded her long-awaited bachelor’s degree.

While continuing to pursue his degree, Kris travels nationally as a sought-after political consultant and event organizer. He serves as National Outreach Coordinator for City GOP; is founder and CEO of two active not for profit organizations, My Just+Us and ValComm (Valued Communities); and sits on several boards, including Lifeline for Success and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tennessee. At U of M, he has distinguished himself as a former College Republican of the Year; President of the College Republicans (2013-2014) and as Associate Justice of Student Government Court (2012-2014). Kris was Head Researcher and manager of the University’s Offender Re-Entry program through its Criminology Department between 2012-2104, while serving as the Shelby County Coordinator for S.H.A.P.E., a model diversionary program for minor juvenile offenders in the Shelby County Schools system.

valued communities

The common denominator in Kris’s and Alisha’s work is a focus on rebuilding strong communities and lifting people out of poverty. Their philosophy is founded on conservative principles: personal responsibility, accountability for gifts given, and free-market principles.

Through My Just+Us and Valued Communities (ValComm), Kris and Alisha have organized, raised funds for and sponsored local leadership luncheons, voter registration

voter registration

Local voter registration drive.

drives, block parties, prayer breakfasts and outreach events for youth and adults. The couple have developed relationships of mutual respect and regard with a wealth of organizations, including  influential local churches Kingdom Fellowship Baptist Church  and Eureka True Vine Baptist Church, the local pastor alliance Mid-South Baptist Association, and Latinos for Tennessee . At the U of M, Kris finds insight and sometimes unexpected common ground  in “side conversations” and ad hoc alliances with issue-based student groups such as College Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, and LGBTQA rights advocates. Kris says,

“the messy stuff you always read about (between Republicans and liberal-issue groups) is not reflective of the actual” relationships that are forged on campus. “There is smart, real leadership to be found everywhere.”

Last summer, while helping students develop financial literacy, Kris and Alisha identified an equally pressing need: civic and political literacy.  They found widespread “general ignorance” about public policy and the workings of state, local and federal governments among students  (despite recently added Tennessee high school graduation requirements that include some government and civics classes). Similar educational shortfalls became apparent to Kris and Alisha among  adults who attended  voter registration drives. According to Kris, many vote without any basic understanding of how American government works, or even how it is structured.  For example, they may know nothing about concepts such as checks and balances or the separation of powers in government.

The less voters know, the less able they are to vote in their own best interests.

calvin and hobbes civics

The Adamses determined that this summer, they would change their focus from teaching students financial literacy to teaching them how to be effective citizens. Beginning in July, a selectively chosen group of 10-15 local high schoolers – “the best and the brightest” – will give up two days a week for at least five weeks to go through a “crash course in civics, government, public policy and law.” Classes will be held from 10:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. on the LeMoyne-Owen campus, with lunches and supplies provided. Students will learn about governmental organization at federal, state, and local levels; about how bureaucracies work; about politicians and elected officialdom; the role of not for profits in the public good; and the individual’s role in public policy. They will be assigned homework, hear guest speakers including Shelby Co. Trustee David Lenoir, and go on field trips. The diverse class will engage in lively group discussions and experience writing their own legislation. Kris and Alisha hope to present each participant with a Chromebook as an incentive and reward for making the classes a summer priority.

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The preliminary budget for the entire summer program is $16,000, which will include meals, supplies, t-shirts, Chromebooks and carrying cases, speaker honoraria, and modest compensation for staff. Kris and Alisha are actively raising funds for the program. If less than $16,000 is raised, cost-based items will be reduced as necessary, but the full curriculum  will  be taught.

It will take more than good intentions and money to solve Memphis’ problems. It  will take more than vision to change our city’s future for the better.  Memphis isn’t suffering because we need more volunteers, federal grants, 501 (c)3 enterprises, or taxes. We’re suffering because we are spending an abundance of our human and financial resources on efforts that are ineffective, duplicative, infeasible, or simply wrong-headed. It’s time to create and support efforts that will change hearts, minds, and the culture that shapes our children.

We at  Back in River City are proud to be supporters of the 2016 Youth Policy Workshop sponsored by Valued Communities, and urge our followers to join us in supporting this worthwhile investment in Memphis area youth. Make your check payable to Valued Communities, 254 Greenway Rd., Memphis, TN 38117.

And, because we know you want to see the beautiful new mom and baby Irene:

alisha and irene

Alisha and Irene Adams, June 14, 2016


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2016 9:06 pm

    Nice article about a young couple attempting to change the oft ignorant attitude of many of our youth. Godspeed Adams family and congratulations on the birth of baby Irene.

    Thomas W. Addcox, Ph.D/

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