When Maria Bravo looks at her daughter, it’s easy to list the things she wants for her: College, career and a stable life. But she knows those things don’t just happen.
“My primary goal is to be a great example for my daughter,” she said. “The future I want to have for her, I have to live it first.”
And she’s taking steps in that direction. She will join seven others this evening in graduating from the Getting Ahead curriculum as part of Capital City Circles, an initiative aimed at ending generational poverty through self-sufficiency.
Through the 18-week course, participants learn skills in money management, goal setting, communication and an array of other topics.
“I see them moving from being very hesitant and cautious to having more confidence in themselves,” said coach David Bash. “They go from feeling isolated and overwhelmed to feeling connected and supported. I see them moving from the tyranny of the moment to developing some future thinking,”
Heidi Barker was referred to the program through the Ron Woods Family Resource Center after going through a traumatic divorce and losing her five children.
“It has completely taken my life away from me,” she said. “Everything I was, I am no longer. I lost everything.”
In the program, she said, she has found companionship.
“I’ve learned that I’m not the only person in poverty,” she said. “It doesn’t mean my life is over. I’m not alone.”
And it’s given her the tools to begin to move forward.
“There’s a lot of things that have been coming together,” she said. “It’s like, I get it.”
Although she’s been on the verge of homelessness, relying on the kindness of friends to give her a place to stay, she has plans this week to move into an apartment.
“I’m so afraid, but happy for the things I have learned here,” she said. “It will help me to keep up on paying rent and taking care of things.”
If anyone knows how the graduates are feeling, it’s Melissa Peden, who went through the first course six years ago.
Since then, she has become a medical assistant and is providing a better life for her two children, ages 10 and 7.
“Now, I’m a lot more stable,” she said. “I have more confidence in everything I do.”
After graduation, participants will be paired with “allies” — volunteers from the community who meet with participants to help them see life outside of poverty.
Peden remains in the program as a member of the Bridging Ahead Team, sharing her successes with those who are still going through the first phases.
“I made a lot of friends here,” she said. “I feel like I want to give back to the program. I feel hopeful for them.”