Teva Sienicki is passionate about building equity and closing the achievement gap for low-income kids. Throughout 14 years of leadership, she has transformed Growing Home—which began as a small shelter serving 30 families—into a comprehensive anti-poverty organization serving over 4,600 families annually.

A recent speaker at our It’s About Time event, Teva’s approach emphasizes innovation, analysis, and teamwork in an effort to change how we think about poverty and provide a better template to address these issues. Here we talk about enjoying the outdoors and a full bounty of tomatoes.


What do you think about the recent surge in development here in Colorado—specifically in the Denver metro area?

On one hand: it’s exciting that we’re growing: the growth of craft beer, the restaurants, even the light rail expansion is great. On the other hand, the growth is accelerating an already severe shortage of housing that is affordable.. A lot of neighborhoods are becoming gentrified and families and individuals are are being displaced.

You’re an incredibly active and selfless member of the community. Who or what inspires you?

I source inspiration from a lot of places including the parent leaders in the community in which I work, my team and our volunteers. On a national scale I follow several podcasts and read a lot. I also get excited by the work of Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, and her team. I just recently returned from a trip to Sweden and Denmark as a part of my Livingston Fellowship and learned a lot. My partner is also a great inspiration as we both have dedicated our careers to creating a more just and equitable world, but in different arenas, so we love to talk about ideas and challenge each-others’ thinking.

Is there anything new that you are hoping to introduce to Denver?

I just returned a few weeks ago from my fellowship trip  to Sweden and Denmark, and I’ve already shared some ideas with my board members and partners. I like to think of both practice and policy. On the practice end, we are planning for some cool projects for more opportunities for  recreation and physical fitness in communities that don’t typically have access. Also, I got a lot of ideas for systems and policy change, and I’m eager to see what we might be able to work for here.

You’re a gardener. What have you been most successful at growing?

This year: Cinderella pumpkins and heirloom tomatoes.

Where do you and your family find yourselves when it’s the weekend?

Recently—and currently—unpacking, but if we’re not doing some big project like moving to a new home, we spend time outdoors going rock climbing, hiking, skiing, camping, or gardening. General Colorado stuff.

Do you have a favorite TED talk?

I’ve watched so many. I am a junkie. I really enjoyed hearing Dan Pallotta speaking about The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong. I think people should definitely watch that.

What do you believe It’s About Time for in your life?

It’s about time to stop living out of boxes!