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Episode 55: Stephaine Courtney and The Learning Project

by Alina Warner

Podcast Sponsor – Lutheran Community Services

Erin and Melissa welcomed Stephaine Courtney, the Executive and CEO of The Learning Project, to the podcast.  Stephaine has her Master’s in Arts and Education from Ashford University. She attended Rogers high school for two years and then returned to attend Whitworth University. Stephaine is a true pirate at heart, times two. She created The Grassroots Project awards ceremony, an event honoring community organizations that provide resources for black families in our community. 

stephaine courtney

Many Platforms Bring Awareness

We know that black babies have the highest mortality rates, and Stephaine’s goal is to help provide education and resources to decrease those numbers. The Learning Project is a health-equity, educational, training unicorn resource! She uses it as a way to give back to our community. If we find a problem, we need to find solutions, and if we find a solution for one group of people often it will work for other groups, and we should share our findings. During the month of November, they were focusing on creating awareness around black babies and their stories. 

an add for the trending northwest spring fling magazine event to be held April 20

The Grassroots Project is a way for Stephaine to bring awareness to our community.  It helps make space for people doing that work within our community. While many people were being celebrated during this event, it also brought attention to needs still present within the Spokane area.  

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The people being celebrated come from many different backgrounds: education, health and wellness, hair care, etc., with one primary focus: bringing awareness to resources available within our community. 

At this event, the Rogers High School step team performed. This is a big deal because Stephaine actually was able to help restart the team a few years ago as a way for students to help release trauma and alleviate stress in their lives. North Central’s step team also stepped for the very first time at Grassroots! The Latrice Experience also performed at the event. So many wonderful companies helped come together to show support for this event.

Success in Schools

To have strong families, you need support throughout the community, and this event is a way that Stephaine hopes the community can learn about programs that are in place or are up and coming so that we can help build stronger families! A recent event that Stephaine went to, Launch Northwest, also shared about the educational system within Spokane itself and how there was a very small amount of educators of color.  Many students will not even see one until they reach college level. 

This is a big deal not only for students of color but also those not of color going through our school systems. We need representation of ALL types of people in order to encourage our students to all feel seen and valued within our community.

Celebrate, Support, and Embrace

Being valued for the work you do is something we can all agree is important.  Right now there are many people of color who do not feel their work is valued solely based on the color of their skin. During the pandemic, we saw many small businesses close, and there was a high proportion of those businesses that were owned by people of color (40%). We need resources in place to help everyone feel like the work they are doing is valuable and is seen.

One of the highlighted people at the Grassroots Project is Jaime Stacey who runs SWAG – Strong Women Achieving Greatness. She works with the youth in the Spokane community to help fill gaps. 

How do we bring hope into a system that seems hopeless?

Erin and Stephaine shared about Sandy WIlliams who really was an incredible influence in their lives. They both really were impacted by Sandy to help share those resources that help connect others to people who have gone through similar struggles. Sandy is actually who connected Stephaine to the Trending Northwest team, and had funded Stephaine’s first black-maternal art exhibit!

The exhibit was all about the birth stories and pictures from black mothers to help during Black Maternal Health Week.

The Learning Project Network

This was a project born out of early childhood education and the poor cookie-cutter training that everyone seemed to be getting. When her teachers entered the workforce, they were trying to apply that training in real life with children in foster care or dealing with divorce and were struggling to make that work. Stephaine found that what they needed more training on was Social Emotional Learning (SEL), mental health, etc. To help bridge that gap she became a STARS trainer and created her own training and has personally trained over 6,000 early learning professionals. Now she is working on creating a new platform that will focus on coaching, education, and connection through project-based learning. Her goal is to create more equitable access to training. She created a subscription essentially that costs $250 for unlimited access to various training for 6 months.

Shades of Motherhood

This is her doula focus. She just received funding from Empire Health Foundation to address a crisis happening in our community called the “Doula Desert Project” looking at how many doulas of color we have in our community and then how we are going to train more doulas of color so that they can be more accessible for other women of color in our community.

This is a way to help support women who are going through childbirth which can be traumatic in itself and provide them with someone who can walk through that together to impact the overall response to any trauma that may happen throughout the pregnancy and birthing process. They have done studies that show when you have a doula with you who can relate with you during these moments your chances of depression, anxiety, and psychosis decreases significantly!

Stephaine also has peer groups for mothers of color and for mothers who have children of color as well. Working through postpartum and life to create support and understanding for moms in our community!

HB 1881

A house bill that just passed states that doula services should be covered under Medicaid so that it is more accessible for people. People often see doula services now as something that only “rich white women” have access to, but when we look back through history that was never the intention. 

In fact, people would have someone “on-call” down the road to come in and support as soon as a mother went into labor.  While we don’t have any official studies on this, it is easy to assume that instances of postpartum depression probably were not as common as they are now due to the extra support they would receive during that time from the people within their communities. 

This project is not just to pair doulas with Medicaid because, as we know, that does not pay them well and we do want to be providing livable wages for the doulas in our community. We want this to be a situation where insurance companies will cover the cost of doula services alongside any other birth supports that a patient may be accessing. According to the CDC black women are 3-4 times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related issues. Of those deaths, 60% of those issues are preventable! 


Stephaine then shared about her personal experiences with doulas and how they hugely impacted her life. She shared how she learned about doulas as she was trying to conceive with her daughter and the many ways that they can help. Doulas are not only beneficial for birth, but are also great resources for fertility, adoption, etc. 

You can listen to her story and others who have experienced similar problems postpartum on her podcast Girl Get a Doula!

Connect with Stephaine

@TLPtalk on IG

tlptalk on FB 


Listen to the whole podcast wherever you stream your favorites and learn (and laugh) even more from Erin and Melissa.

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