When JTHS Bridge Builder and Troy Board of Education Member Sabrina Price attended a school board conference in 2017, she was inspired by key note speaker, Ruby Payne, and her approach to breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
Price, who at the time was also serving as chairman of Church of the Good Shepherd, wanted to bring Payne’s teachings to Joliet and formed a small group of local leaders.
These were JTHS board president Tracy Spesia, retired JTHS superintendent Cheryl McCarthy, Troy 30-C superintendent Todd Koehl, Troy 30-C board president Mark Griglione, Harvey Brooks executive director Cathy Wells, Joliet 86 superintendent Teresa Rouse, United Way of Will County's president and CEO Mike Hennessy and its community impact manager Loren Yaksich.
In 2018, the group expanded to include Captain Wendy Faundez of the Joliet Salvation Army and Kris White of the Will County Center for Community Concerns.
Together, they began to lay the groundwork for a Bridges Out of Poverty Community Model that would educate area leaders and volunteers, bring the community together and provide an opportunity for local individuals in unstable living situations to investigate the impact of poverty in our community.
Through the Getting Ahead small group cohorts, participants would examine their own experience of poverty and explore issues in the community that impact poverty such as banking, housing, jobs, transportation and the hidden rules of society.
Participants would be able to create their own goals and action steps to create opportunities for success for themselves and the community.
In November of 2018, with support from the Joliet Rotary and the United Way of Will County, the concept became a reality.
Price and her team gathered over 150 community leaders to attend a full-day Bridges Out of Poverty workshop held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Workshop participants gained knowledge of the Bridges of Out of Poverty Concepts and received a call to action to make changes in their own organizations, become a Getting Ahead Group Facilitator, and/or advocate for the initiative.
In December of 2018, four volunteers from the full-day workshop were trained to be Getting Ahead Group facilitators. At the same time, nominations were received for the first Getting Ahead Group participants.
The Getting Ahead Program is comprised of 16-week focus groups that bring together a small group of individuals experienced with living in or near poverty.
To remove the stigma associated with poverty, participants are titled “Investigators,” and are considered experts on dealing with poverty in the local context and are compensated for their time each week with a gift card.
These investigator participants are given the opportunity to reflect on their own situations and set personal goals. While the group meets, the JTHS Student Ambassadors and community volunteers provide childcare.
Since program implementation in 2019, one Getting Ahead Group has already been completed with four graduates. Another two groups at the Joliet Salvation Army are nearing completion.
With support from local organizations, including the United Way of Will County, the Will County Center for Community Concerns, the Community Foundation of Will County, and many others, the Will County Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative continues to expand by hosting community workshops for individuals and organizations and leading more Getting Ahead Groups.
Donations are being collected at Salvation Army on 300 Third Ave. in Joliet. Larger donations can be picked up by the Salvation Army. Please call 815-726-4834 for arrangements.
To contribute to the Getting Ahead Program, including nominating someone to be a part of an upcoming Getting Ahead Group, making a donation, or volunteering to help with childcare, transportation, or facilitating, email email@example.com.