Living in poverty is no easy trick. One must be masterful at juggling multiple challenges with limited resources. Juggling requires careful concentration; it requires living in the moment, leaving little room to think about or plan for the future. When we live in poverty, getting by takes every ounce of energy.
“Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World,” an innovative workshop series, built from the “Bridges out of Poverty” framework, can help by providing those living in poverty with a safe environment in which to step outside of the problems of everyday life … and look to the future. Over the course of 16 weeks, groups of 12 to 14 participants—referred to as investigators—come together, along with one to two facilitators, to investigate poverty in their own lives and in their communities. Getting Ahead provides the tools to encourage investigators to write their own future story, and come to grips with the environmental, circumstantial, and psychological challenges they face, along with the resources they have – or lack.
Pictured: Phil Devol, author of “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin-By World” met with Getting Ahead graduates and supporters during a visit to the North Country (April 11, 2018).
Based on a national model, Getting Ahead was launched in the North Country in 2017 with overwhelming support from the community, most notably the Race Against Poverty, hosted by Jefferson Leadership Institute Class of 2017.
To date, two groups totaling 23 individuals have graduated from Getting Ahead. These graduates come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, each one having battled their way through adversity to come to where they are today. Individuals from both graduating classes have found themselves successful in continuing their journey to staying ahead. Goals obtained vary to fit each individual’s needs. Some of the graduates have found full-time jobs with benefits and can now comfortably care for their families. Some are pursuing educational accomplishments by completing their high school equivalency, enrolling at Jefferson Community College, and even choosing a new career path by attending tractor trailer school. Others have simply learned to come out of their shell to be more involved in the community, with a few stepping up to actually become Getting Ahead Facilitators themselves. Whether it’s bettering themselves financially through new career pursuits, taking back control of their lives by finding courage to leave an abusive relationship, becoming an asset to the community by volunteering at different organizations, or teaching others to save money through couponing and simply spreading the word of Getting Ahead, we can without a doubt say this program has produced successful graduates.
Because the Getting Ahead process continues well beyond participants’ graduation, it needs to be championed by the entire community in order to be truly successful. Employers must be aware and give pause when they see “Getting Ahead graduate” on an applicant’s resume. Employers would do well to learn about Bridges out of Poverty constructs in order to better understand and maximize the potential of their under-resourced staff. In fact, nationwide, several employers have sponsored the cost of Getting Ahead workshops or have otherwise promoted Getting Ahead, because they recognize the investment it brings to their own business as well as their entire community. The possibilities for employers, business people, and other community leaders to get involved are endless – from sponsoring the workshops to raising awareness about the series in the community to assisting with job coaching, mentoring, or pairing graduates with employment opportunities.
Over the next year, ten additional Getting Ahead workshops will be offered in the community, funded in part by Watertown’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI). Click here for the spring / summer schedule. Workshops are offered in partnership with Community Action Planning Council, Watertown Urban Mission and the Volunteer Transportation Center.
For more information or to find out how you can help others “get ahead,” call 315.782.4900, extension 250.