Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending a graduation of “Investigators” participating in a “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World” learning experience. Twelve community members committed to embracing change met sixteen times to learn about the personal and community resources available for help in overcoming poverty. They started out as strangers. Every one of them finished and they all became friends with goals.
What is Getting Ahead?
Getting Ahead is learner-based group work that seeks to release its participants from the “tyranny of the moment” long enough to focus on abstract concepts that will help them move out of the cycles of poverty they’ve been living with. Giving advice about dealing with a financial crisis is easy for someone who’s not trapped in the daily web of decisions related to housing, transportation, child care and income. It is very hard to think more than a moment ahead about these things when each moment can bring a new crisis.
Investigators take the time to learn about community resources. Together they identify a community issue and create a report on the issues and offer suggestions for improvement. In doing so, they identify what resources they personally may be lacking and set goals to overcome this.
Getting Ahead classes are offered by United Against Poverty through a grant provided to them by the United Way of St. Lucie County. The folks graduating in this class came from a wide variety of experiences. There was the grandmother raising her granddaughter alone who had lost her home. There was a single mom of three who needed to develop social skills to form business relationships. Another wanted to get healthier because she realized her weight was stopping her from applying for jobs.
The issue they wrote about dealt with criminal backgrounds as a barrier to employment. Their report included national and local statistics to back up their findings. Their report, and its suggestion to implement the Ban the Box program in this county, will be presented to local decision makers for consideration.
Now that they’ve graduated, all twelve Investigators plan to stay connected and continue to help each other. They are planning social events together. And, they are getting ready to connect with the next group of graduates. They will help them to keep moving ahead now that they know how to do it and why.