2023 Rising Star Stephaine Courtney: Sparking change for new moms
Platform founder serves vulnerable groups in INWSeptember 14th, 2023
Activist. Innovator. Leader.
Stephaine Courtney is described by her Rising Star nominator as driven to connecting people and sparking change for the underrepresented in the greater Spokane community.
As executive director and founder of The Learning Project Network LLC and nonprofit affiliate The Shades of Motherhood Network, Courtney says she holds nothing back in her mission to advocate for the region’s overlooked minorities.
Both organizations collaboratively focus on assisting people of color and vulnerable communities to help them obtain health equity and social justice.
Courtney executes her mission with aid from local grants that support a $250,000 annual budget that funds various advocacy events and a staff of two, including herself.
Formed in 2015, The Learning Project Network aligns programs and initiatives discovered through research and community feedback to support the underserved.
It can be a daunting task at times, the 38-year-old admits.
“It requires bravery,” she says. “It requires me to unapologetically raise awareness, provide solutions, and cultivate leadership for people who are often overlooked.”
Courtney is a self-described military brat whose family lived in communities across the U.S. through her father’s involvement in the U.S. Air Force. She says New Jersey is her home, “But Spokane definitely raised me.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Whitworth University in 2009 and a master’s in education from Arizona-based Ashford University, an online university, in 2012.
Courtney’s parents live in Spokane and her mother is a professor in theology at Whitworth.
She was nominated to be a Rising Star by Christine Burns, a marketing and public relations consultant who met Courtney through their mutual involvement with Spokane-based Trending Northwest magazine.
Burns was also a guest on Courtney’s podcast, “Girl Get a Doula,” which focuses on helping women find local doulas and become doulas, who are trained professionals that support women before, during, and after giving birth.
Courtney describes her podcast as a space where conversations about everyday life, education, and passions are shared.
“It is through our conversations and our realness that we find ourselves having aha moments,” Courtney says. “As we say, we want our conversations to be that chicken noodle soup kind of good ... something that sticks to the bones and fills your soul.”
Burns was impressed with the podcast host and her mission to serve the underprivileged.
“Courtney is a true example of a professional leader who sees problems in the community and works around the clock to find solutions,” Burns says. “She saw a lack of diversity among teachers, which directly impacted the learning conditions for minority students who come from different backgrounds.”
Today, The Learning Project Network provides a collaborative platform for early childhood educators to improve the learning conditions for minority students.
“We’re not afraid of being unconventional or leading the way,” Courtney says. “We promote social justice activism through everything from online training and workshops to art exhibits and pop-up meetings focused on healing and awareness.”
Courtney also is working to improve the conditions surrounding Black maternal health. Black mothers, she says, are three times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related complication than white women and twice as likely to die or suffer long-term as a result of pregnancy-related complications.
That’s another reason Burns was compelled to nominate Courtney as a Rising Star.
“Stephaine is taking a proactive, community-focused approach by planning events like the annual Black Maternal Health Week,” Burns says.
Always looking for other ways to support the Black and brown communities, Courtney started The Shades of Motherhood Network with the goal to ensure every Black mother and mother of an infant of color in the U.S. has a high-quality, culturally relevant childbirth experience.
Passionate about her projects, Courtney says her work is diverse, and her focus is sharp.
“I am creating content, programming, and partnerships that explore and address challenging social issues impacting people of color, creating community resources, and making individual-change impact and systems-change impact,” she says.