Erin Penner

Erin Penner, is the founder of the an outdoor, exploration-based preschool, ILA — Inspired Little Activists. She is also an elected official on the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council and an advocate for the LGBT community and the unhoused population in Los Angeles.

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Passionistas: [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and if you enjoy listening to the show please consider becoming a patron. Just a small donation of one dollar a month can help us keep the project going. And you'll get rewards — like buttons, access to premium content and invites to Passionistas Project events.

Today we're talking to Erin Penner — the founder of an outdoor, exploration-based school ILA, which stands for Inspired Little Activists. Erin is also an elected official on the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council and she's an advocate for the LGBT community and the unhoused population in Los Angeles.

So please welcome to the show. Erin Penner.

Passionistas: What are you most passionate about.

Erin Penner: [00:00:40] I'm most passionate about giving a voice to people that aren't being heard. And giving them a platform to really say what they need and speak what's on their mind and whether it's working with the homeless or with children it's just giving them a voice.

Passionistas: [00:00:55] So how does that translate into what you do for a living?

Erin Penner: [00:00:59] I started my own nonprofit organization that teaches kids how to take ownership of L.A. So they clean Griffith Park and they clean the beach and they feed the homeless and they're on the metro twice a month and they go all over the city and they really are advocates for the city and for people in need and for themselves. So gives them quite a voice. 

Passionistas: [00:01:21] Talk a little bit about your path to starting the preschool.

Erin Penner: [00:01:24] When I came here 12 years ago I had my teaching degree from Wheelock College in Boston. And back then I mean you could get... You could work in TV without even thinking about it. The jobs were like a dime a dozen. So I jumped into TV but also nannied to because my passion was working with kids. So I was Nannying for quite some time. And one of the children's preschool teachers grabbed me and she had her own school out here in L.A. that she had started. And I was working one on one with her for years and she branched out and the school moved to Griffith Park and became entirely outside. But she had a child two years ago and I kind of took it over rebranded it and added my own little flair to it. And that's where I am now.

Passionistas: [00:02:13] And what's the flair that you added?

Erin Penner: [00:02:15] I made it very much an activism school and it's actually called Inspired Little Activists. And what she was doing is very nature driven and this still is. But nature's not necessarily my passion. I enjoy being outside very much but I'm not really put your hiking boots on every single day kind of person even though we do do that. But I added my own let's grab a backpack get on the metro and go meet Mayor Garcetti and stuff like that. So it's kind of both.

Passionistas: [00:02:47] So give us examples of some other kinds of things you do.

Erin Penner: [00:02:50] We constantly learn about leaders, world leaders, leaders in the community, whether it's just someone in town or Billie Jean King or stuff like that. But we also have... It's really important to me that they know their community and you can teach their own parents about their communities. So the fire department will stop by and police will stop by my friends and nurse. He'll stop by and it's just very much just being a part of the world they live in. So we do that. They constantly have visitors and then like this week it's Day the Dead, so we're going to an art gallery downtown — Self Help Graphics it's called. They'll learn Native American art and Mexican art and stuff like that. So it's really like any holiday, like LGBT rights is all this month. So they learn about that and just kind of really weave in everything that's going on. And not, not be so depressing about what's happening in the country but really not lying to them about anything and making them aware and just being positive how to change that.

Passionistas: [00:03:50] Do you feel like kids that age are underestimated in what they're capable of grasping?

Erin Penner: [00:03:55] 100 percent. And I talk about it all the time. I talk about it like a specific behavior like LGBT rights and stuff. We underestimate how much they can handle how much they want to learn. And we can put a stigma on stuff. So it's like you know you almost some people whisper when they say the word gay and it's like, no some of them have two moms and two dads and why is that something that we've been whispers. So we talk about that stuff and then they learn about Harvey Milk and they know that love is love. And it doesn't matter. And they teach their family about it. And the family is like oh my god it would have been so scared to even touch this topic. Which is crazy. So we definitely underestimate what kids can handle.

Passionistas: [00:04:38] So what do the parents know going into it when they sign their kids up? What do they expect?

Erin Penner: [00:04:43] It's not hard when you first need to know that I'm not someone that will kind of tiptoe around things but that to people like. Actually when I was a nannying one of the dads called me "nanny leather pants." Because it's kinda like... I will, I have a rule in school that we do a happy hour once a month with all the parents. So it has to be a tight knit community. But they'll also know my sailor mouth and what I'm passionate about outside of school and it's really important. So when I interviewed families for school I mean that's out in the open right away. And you know... I mean eventually I'll be covered in tattoos and I want to tell them because they'll know when they look at me and that's just how it goes.

Passionistas: [00:05:26] What do you think the kids get from learning outside of a classroom? Why is it so important to be in the world?

Erin Penner: [00:05:33] One thing that people are always shocked by especially when we go on our field trips says not only are they capable of taking on the world themselves I mean they're on the Metro at three years old just carrying all their stuff and they know the map and they know which line we go and everything. And what it teaches people just by watching them is you know how capable they are. So being outside of just four walls, I mean you're teaching them how to you even if there was an emergency. They know exactly who to go to what to do. One thing we do is they're exposed to like the homeless. And it's, that's a tricky part because you don't want them to think OK I can just talk to any stranger, which I have to talk to the parents about a lot but, they're human and so just being outside a classroom they learn so much in that regard. And they know the names of... they know Paul is one guy that sits at a park near us and we ask how his day is going and... I mean I think all of it teaches the adults just as much as.

Passionistas: [00:06:39] How do they go to traditional schools after being with you?

Erin Penner: [00:06:42] It's kind of a worry. I have and I did come up this year one of my girls who I mean I always said that they are my best friends and they are five. And it was hard. She had to adjust... It was like two months of adjusting. Where she was just like this is not where I want to be. So she, I would actually have a date with her every week to take her out. And we's go to the deli and eat prosciutto after school and stuff because she was just... It was impossible for her to be with 30 kids rather than seven and to be in this crowded classroom with a teacher that is just strictly a teacher and that's it. Because I'm more... I mean their family and they have a bad day they FaceTime me and we go out all the time and it is tricky. I worry about the adjustment but so far it's been pretty good.

Passionistas: [00:07:30] So you talked a little bit about your work with the homeless. But tell us about that and why that's important to you and what you do for outreach.

Erin Penner: [00:07:38] I grew up in my family's Italian restaurant on Cape Cod. And I was always the little kid that was just addicted to talking to people and especially if like you're sitting at a table alone I would just pull up a chair and hang out or what have you. But for some reason like my mission as a little kid was to make someone's day. And my dad always talks about it too. It's like I could make a note and just leave it with like a cookie or... Like when it was his birthday one year I just assembled a grill and had it in the front yard and he rolled up in his pickup truck and there was this grill and he was just so excited and crying. And it was just like instantly I realized just making someone's day is the best thing ever.

[00:08:21] So when I turned 16 or 17, I got my license and I got a red Mustang. And I realized I could go to a homeless shelter and on Cape Cod. There's one homeless shelter. You don't even know what exists. And that waswhen I mean you had the Yellow Pages and I was digging and I was like I know there's some place around here. And I finally figured it out. It was only two towns away. And I called them they said can I bring you food. And they were like, yeah no one's really ever asked that before. So I went to a store and I made them to lasagnas. So here comes like this chick in a red car that pulls up at 17. And this whole... this linw of people just staring at me and I carried in two lasagna. Its was like this is the best thing anywhere I can help these people.

[00:09:09] So from there I went to college in Boston and you can do an internship and I just wanted to be at a homeless shelter. So I worked at Rosie's Place, which is for women dealing with domestic abuse and stuff and I end up writing basically a thesis about this woman there and my passion for the homeless just really grew and giving a voice to them at that point. Because there is one day where we had to serve lunch. And it was Valentine's Day and I brought them a bunch of candies and stuff and they even took the plastic bag that the candies were. I said gosh why are they even taking a plastic bag? And it was just they needed anything. And we had a soda fountain and I would watch the women and they would take a few sips of soda and just dump. And I was like ow dare they? Like there in such a need. And we have so many people that are in such need. And the guy in charge that I would like listen to Van Halen with during lunch. He was like don't you see how spoiling yourself is something that we take for granted. And this is the one minute that they get to spoil themselves and be wasteful like we are every day. Wow that's crazy. And that has stuck with me forever.

[00:10:23] So once I had left Boston and came here I didn't have a job for a while and all I did was volunteer in the homeless shelters. And from there I just started a nonprofit.

Passionistas: [00:10:33] So what is your nonprofit do?

Erin Penner: [00:10:35] It's called Vibe's 365. I started it with my partner Robin who is now my teaching partner with ILA. And that was to do this with kids. So essentially we started with summer camps and workshops and they went really well. But it was... Summer camps a lot of work and that's a lot of caring your whole life and all of this that you are teaching to the beach to do a beach cleanup and stuff. And it's great. And I love it. But I ended up scaling it down a tiny bit. So for instance right now I volunteer at the center in Hollywood and it's basically an art class that we do. It's a women's day. So I was teaching art for the past two years to homeless women. And so my kids, I was approved by the board at the center. They're pen pals are the women. So it's kind of like my nonprofit is me teaching a homeless woman art but it's also my school kids being pen pals. And I mean they make each other jewelry and make cards. And it's all I do is kind of intertwine everything.

Passionistas: [00:11:37] Talk about that pen program and how that works and what people who participate get out of it.

Erin Penner: [00:11:43] It's funny because so many things I already like have a preconceived notion of what, what people will get out of it. But it ends up being the opposite of what I think. So the whole time I'm thinking, wow it'll be amazing for these kids to be in touch with these women and kind of find out what their day is like. But what I learned on the first day is these women would just start crying when they got a letter because it's like when was the last time they got a card? And they could be estranged from their kids that they missed so badly. And it's like no one's ever asked them how they're doing and drawn them a picture. So it was, it was so sweet and innocent because these women would be like I have a dog and what's your dog's name? Or just something so simple like that and it sounds so elementary. But it was such a game changer. Was just like someone is reaching out to me whether I even know what they look like or not but it made them human again.

Passionistas: [00:12:40] How can other people do what you do?

Erin Penner: [00:12:43] I think people underestimate when it comes to kids what kids are noticing that you do. And say you're driving in your car and your kids in your backseat and you just kind of drive by some guy Hollywood and Highland desperately needs food or something. And you don't even give them the time of day. Just by showing them a hello and this is let's even find out what their name is. It really sticks in kids heads. But one thing I've learned...

[00:13:16] I actually had a homeless couple that are very close friends of mine live with me here for a month because we met on Hollywood Boulevard two and a half, three years ago. I was on a date and walking back and this couple was on the sidewalk in sleeping bags. And I stopped and talked to them and gave them cookies that I had in my hand. And asked them if they would contact me because I really wanted to help them. And I begged them. Can you get to the library, get on a computer? Because people forget even just to... They might not have a phone. They might not have computer access, and what have you. And they did a few days later and he put in his e-mail Cookie Man. And I figured it was cause I had given them cookies. But what it was is, it was a couple that had their own cookie business that tanked. And so my girlfriend was like You know I know you hate Go Fund Me because it's kind of like my last resort. I don't like overusing crowd funding and stuff like that. She was like you need to just do it. And it was Thanksgiving week and this is three years ago actually next month. And we raised two thousand dollars in 24 hours.

[00:14:21] So I find out that they lived outside of MacArthur Park. So for a week I was going to have dinner with them in a park and they would joke and say come into our living room. And it was just a box on the ground and it hit me one night I came home and I was... I'll never forget, I was sitting in bed and I was like How dare I? Because now these are my good friends. And I'm sitting in my bed knowing that they're sleeping on a box in MacArthur Park. So I grab the next day and put them in my car. And they lived here.

[00:14:52] And what... Their story, they were fine with me making it public... Even within that week or two had taught so many people how to really treat people nicely and with an open heart and kindness that everyone was paying attention to our updates every day. So we got an iPad donated. We got their website back up and running. And then by Christmas time all my family on the East Coast and all my friends were ordering. This had turn into the cookie factory. And they even have a cookie box that they designed with my old logo, on my face on it and stuff. But I mean they had like 20 different flavors and the orders were just coming in. It was crazy. TV production companies my friends worked for it order all these cookies. So it is just like reviving them and giving them a voice and giving them a face. And they became family instantly. So it's like we spend all our holidays together and my family sends him Christmas presents. And it just that, taught people so much. And right now they're going through a lot. And the wife this week realized she has colon cancer but they... all of my friends are friends with them on social media. And they instantly had their back. And they were like oh my gosh, what can we do? And it's just, it's created a family. Just from that.

Passionistas: [00:16:12] We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Erin Penner. To find out more about ILA visit. Now here's more of our conversation with Erin.

Passionistas: [00:16:26] So tell us about the award that you got from the center.

Erin Penner: [00:16:28] The center is an amazing place. And it's... It's basically, it's not a homeless shelter, it's just a resource center and basically for Unhoused... we like to say not homeless, unhoused friends of ours. And they surprised me with an award for volunteering there.

[00:16:46] I had this idea that I wanted to make the women's day and give them a makeover. So Robin being a hairstylist, she was like let's get this shit done and we are just changing their lives. So we had three or four hairstylists, four wardrobe people and some of them like professional wardrobe people. I hired a photographer to do their portraits. We have food and... It was hair and makeup, food. Yeah just a ton of clothes. We had hundreds of pounds of clothes donated. So this center let me use them as this just hub for all of this. So this one day we set up the whole downstairs as a clothing store. And really doted on the women. And it was just like coffee and breakfast and all this stuff. And then upstairs Robin had turned it into a buzzing hair salon and they got toiletry bags and jewelry and sunglasses donated and stuff like that. And then their portrait done. So they could see how beautiful they were. And we had 30 or 40 women that first, first one. And we did our second one this year. And I I'd like to do them way more often and eventually in my own office and hub to do this. But that's where I started the center and then we just made it this constant thing for the women. I never realized how underserved the women are in the community and the stuff they go through and the danger they are in every night in a sleeping bag or a tent. It's just that they have changed my life forever, for sure.

Passionistas: [00:18:18] What do you think that people should know about those women? Because a lot of people don't take the time to stop.

Erin Penner: [00:18:26] What we do at the center at all of the outreach stays. Friday is women's day. And we get them in there for breakfast and to do like... I do arts and crafts with them and stuff. But really it's kind of a way just to get them in. We hear how their week was. And you can let it kind of depress you or just let it motivate. Like oh my god I got to, I gotta fixed this. And thank god that neighborhood council it kind of helped me realize that's... How to give them a voice and go to City Hall. Like to know what these women have gone through this week? And I think what people don't realize is just... It's going to sound crazy but I mean just going to the bathroom when you wake up in the morning.

[00:19:04] And I had one friend Sarah, we had the same birthday actually. And she has been going there for a while. She's so sweet and the pen pal with the kids like really affected her. Because she raised her sister from seven years old. Sarah was seven and took care of her sister. And she's had a crazy struggle. So there was one day where she woke up and she had to pee like we all do when we wake up. And she went to a restaurant and they instantly kicked her out. And she had gone into so many places and they kicked her out. Coffee shops kicked her out and she's... It's not like she's covered in dirt or anything like that which everyone thinks you're homeless really covered in mud or something. But no one would let her go the bathroom. And she peed her pants in the entryway in this restaurant. And she was there telling us this and it was humiliating for her. So like wow this is such an insane struggle I would never think about. If you were to pee outside then you're a sex offender. Because if you're even near a school or a park or whatever... And a lot of them are in parks, then they have to deal with that. So I think between the safety factor and sexual assault that they deal with a lot on the streets. Just even go to the bathroom is a crazy struggle.

Passionistas: [00:20:15] You also are a member of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council. So talk about what other work you do with them.

Erin Penner: [00:20:23] So actually Charles and Bridgett that lived here help me get elected. And they were throwing out flyers everywhere that day. And it was pretty amazing. So I've been on there for two years. And at the time I was the youngest person on the council. And now I'm the only female. I was part of the executive officers. I'm the secretary now. But it's, it's been a very funny situation because you realize some males just typically don't like females that are kind of getting shit done and doing stuff around the city. And it's, it's insane when I think about women in politics and what they're dealing with because I want such a ittle pian level but it's really affected me with crazy messages I get from people that are just like you know we're all going to have all the homeless pitch inside your apartment building because clearly you're not doing enough. And stuff like, crazy, crazy things but you can't let it get you discouraged.

[00:21:20] So I'm on four committees now — the outreach committee, on public safety, and homelessness and social services, and renters, and nonprofit education. Five. I just resigned from renters last week. But it's taught me a lot. It's taught me about.. talk about giving a voice... it's like you have people in the Hollywood Hills who think they're... What I view is something so small that's they're big problem and that's a problem that has to be addressed right away. And I'm like Are you kidding me? Do you know what's happening down here? But you have to come together. And my job is to not just speak about what's concerning me. I have to be a voice for all the neighbors even if it's something that pisses me off because if that's what's bothering them then that's my job. So it's taught me a lot to just let people criticize you and to kind of be an advocate for something you don't necessarily want to be but that's what you're elected for.

Erin Penner: [00:22:16] You're also an advocate for LGBT rights. So talk about your work in that area. 

Erin Penner: [00:22:22] Robin McWilliams and Madonna Cacciatore, the best Italian name ever, have made the biggest impact in my life in the past couple of years. And Robin makes a point to just drag me along to all of the LGBT events. And in the beginning I was like oh god they're going to look at me like who is this straight chick walking in here? But that's why she's so powerful and such a force because she's like this is my friend Erin. This is what she's doing. Not even mentioning that I'm not part technically part of the LGBT community which we all are. But it's kind of... that's what we talk about.

[00:23:02] I started going to all these events and it's just packed with powerful people that... it's just really mind blowing, the hurdles that they have on a daily basis that I don't have to think about that. And they're also getting so much done on top of that. So it is another way that I realized you know I need to be a voice for them as well. Because there's a lot of... there's so much stigma with that. People think you know if you're part of the LGBT community you're just at a bar in WeHo and you're in drag or whatever. Like there's so many things that they're visualizing and that's not the case. And especially the transgender community we have a lot at the homeless center. And just there it's another daily struggle of stuff you don't think about. Like to not feel comfortable in their own skin and to not be accepted for what they want to be.

[00:23:51] It's taught me a lot. It's a big thing that I'm really appreciative of, but... I went to an event with Robin a month or two ago and one of her friends after talking to me for about an hour called me an impostor because she found out I was straight. And in a moment it was like jarring and I was pissed. But then it was like this is a moment I've been wanting because I want to know literally how I will respond in this situation. And it was pretty amazing because once I told her how we need each other's back and it doesn't matter who's on what team she completely changed her thinking.

[00:24:30] And I had grabbed this friend of ours. She's another transgender friend that lives with Robin. Robin's been her big advocate to come out and be comfortable are scared. And this is the first night she was out at one of these events and I looked at her and was like can I talk to you for a second? And she was like, yeah. You're nervous here, right? Yet. I was just called an impostor. And I was like you see how similar it is where you feel like you're not in the right place and now I'm being told that I'm not in the right place but we all have to learn from situations like this so. That was a really important moment that I appreciate.

Passionistas: [00:25:06] So looking back at your path so far, is there one moment that you can reflect on and think that was the most courageous thing I've done and it changed the journey that I'm taking.

Erin Penner: [00:25:19] It really would just be running for the neighborhood council because the only reason why I did it I was realizing teaching or being out in the park with the kids. One of the bathrooms was neglected and almost burned down because someone who lit a fire in the paper towel dispenser. And it affected the plumbing. And because you know there was no funding or they just didn't really want to fix it, that broken bathroom just stood there in disrepair for months and months. And in order to not fix it they had to put porta potties in the park. I found out from the maintenance worker, because I always teach the kids, too, those are good friends. So we're very close to them because they've seen our trash cans and that's important. So we know that Julie is coming to clean the trash cans. And Julie and I were talking one day and she's like do you know how much it costs to clean those porta potties because here comes a toilet truck every day or so and I know I doing the math that was thousands of dollars that we were spending rather than just fixing a broken pipe in the bathroom. And it irked me so bad.

[00:26:23] And at that time I saw a bus bench ads for Run for Neighborhood Council and I didn't even know we had one which is also part of my job is to get the word out for that because many people don't know. So I was so nervous but I put up flyers and I had like people had the signs in their yard with my name on it. I was like This is like so not me at all. But that was kind of the gutsiest thing. And then I end up winning by a landslide and it was just like oh my god, what we all could do and we underestimate what we can do. And it really just changed everything for me.

Passionistas: [00:26:59] Do you have cultural heroines that have influenced you?

Erin Penner: [00:27:02] It would be Lucille Ball and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Because I feel like it's so important to be a bad ass basically but to have humor in there. And I think people forget that and they think you have to be so stiff and dry. But I mean that's, that's those are generally my closest friends, who are not only can they handle my mouth but they're equally funny and just you know let it all slide and I feel like those two women were at the pinnacle like that and that picture of that. It's really important to me I can't stand when people censor me. I realized for years people di. My exboyfriend did. And it was always you know be quiet, you're too loud, and that's raunchy or whatever. And as you get older you're like that is the exact opposite of what I am or what I want or anything. And that's those are kind of the women that I loo up to.

Passionistas: [00:27:57] Tell us about your grandmothers.

Erin Penner: [00:27:58] Oh dod. They're the best. They're both crazy in their own way. My Italian grandmother Maggie... Like I said I was raised in my family's Italian restaurant. So as it can, I mean I was working at 5 years old. Because not only was it free childcare it's like good fill the jelly jars and make the salads and stuff like that. But she like my earliest memories with her as we sit in the foyer of our restaurant. And back then it had a smoking room and a non-smoking room, which is so ridiculous because it's not like there's a wall. It's just, it's nothing. So we would sit there and... Our restaurant was next to the Cape Playhouse which is an old play house, we we'd get a lot of theater people and families. But she was so, is so unfiltered which I love. I'm very grateful for. She would play a game where... at like eight years old, we had to say if the person was drunk, or if they were on drugs, or if the woman was "putana," which is not the best word. Or a "Stunad" which is an idiot. But she would have me judge these people as soon as they walked in the door. And I was like this we're doing and my dad would get so mad. But I loved it because it was just hilarious. And I could put it aside and differentiate between like how you treat people and how not to. But also to enjoy the fact that my grandmother was nuts.

[00:29:26] She and that's how she is. And then my other grandmother there were both around the same age and she talks exactly the same and there's no filter. And I mean they're my sisters. And I actually... Like those Akashic Records that I did. I had why are my grandmothers like my sisters? And I'm... I know we literally don't see age. And this woman had said, it's really weird you say that because people always ask what their spirit animal is and yours didn't come up. What came up was a beach ball. And it's because you think, you look at everyone is ageless. And so to you, literally are grandmothers are not 80 years old. So you talk to them like they're 16. They do the same thing. And there's no age. That is literally how I felt my entire life. So yeah they're they're just my best friends. 

Passionistas: [00:30:18] So you accomplish so many things is there one thing you're the most proud of?

Erin Penner: [00:30:22] I'd have to say when Charles and Bridget were living here and just getting their message to so many people. It actually got us on the radio. We Were on an AM radio show during the Christmas time. Like a uplifting radio show. And that was another moment that actually pissed me off at the same time because after we had told the story and it was such a feel good story. And it was like we're all humans and we can all live under the same roof. And they were strangers living with me and we were family.

[00:30:53] And at the end this interviewer, who is a very sweet guy, was like Erin is there anything we said that we haven't covered. And I said yeah this guy was in Iraq and he's in a sleeping bag and that's what this country does to people. And that's so much we don't appreciate people have fought and risked their lives to fight for his country. And they didn't air it because it wasn't feel good enough. On social media, he expressed the fight that he did. And he saved a police officer's life... That some guy on bath salts was going to kill this police officer and Charles jumped in and saved his life and he got a medal of valor and he's still sleeping in a sleeping bag. So we were able to tell those stories from them living here and it really taught so many people so many things about how we treat just our brothers and sisters out there. So I think just them living here and getting their message out was my proudest moment.

Passionistas: [00:31:48] So what advice would you give to a young woman who wants to be an activist?

Erin Penner: [00:31:52] Don't be discouraged by people that try to silence you. And to think my biggest hurdle, and I get it from my friends, good friends a lot, is they view your passion as anger. Now we say just because I'm pissed that our rights are being taken away, don't think that I'm sitting at home and I'm burning my bra and throwing crap across the house and then I hate life. And so I mean I'm laughing and smiling nonstop. And there is this misconception that if you're passionate and angry about something that you must be angry inside and it's not true. And I think that's something we need to teach girls a lot is to have a voice and be really loud and to not be mad, not to be mad at people that think you're just angry. They just don't get it. And you're allowed to just stomp your feet and try to fix stuff.

[00:32:46] Robin's done that for me a lot because I'll still say like oh god I shouldn't I should get so mad and say that. Or not it's not very positive and she's like screw that. Like that was wrong and you have every right to yell at that person and stick up for them. And so god have to keep reminding myself that because we always apologize. We're just taught to apologize. I refuse to, refuse to do that anymore. My friend calls me "unapologetically angry" and it's like my favorite slogan because it's true. Like I'm not scared of being angry anymore. And I'll go have hine and laugh and watch stupid TV all day.

Passionistas: [00:33:25] What's your definition of success?

Erin Penner: [00:33:27] The success is just... Kind of like with your mantra and what you find the most rewarding, if you wake up and you're not dreading the day that's really success. And to go to bed knowing that the day was amazing and... It's crazy as much as you know the hardship that you see every day and the hard work that you do. I never, I never ever get tired of it. And there's I'm always thinking of the next thing that I want to fix. Even if it makes me so mad. I always, I just always say like having a fire under my ass. And people are like you're taking on too much. Like no I'm so glad this thing just pissed me off because now I'm going to fix it. And that's success if you can just keep doing that kind of stuff all the time. To me that's success.

Passionistas: [00:34:12] What's your secret to a rewarding life?

Erin Penner: [00:34:15] I realize that I am living the most rewarding life and it's helping people. And it's, to me it's selfish in a way because helping people makes me feel so good. And it's not, sometimes I'm like in my doing this other kindness in my heart or is it just because I literally I get off on their smile or just giving them a sweater or something like that. But I think if you wake up every day and you don't hate your job and you're making someone smile it's just the most rewarding thing ever.

Passionistas: [00:34:47] Thanks for listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Erin Penner. To find out more about ILA visit And be sure to subscribe to the Passionistas Project Podcast so you don't miss any of our upcoming inspiring guests.

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