Part of the YWCA of North Central Indiana’s mission is to aid community members who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. For their protection, these clients’ names have been changed in the blog post below.
Everyone has a different definition of what it takes to “get ahead.” Maybe it means continuing your education and becoming as knowledgeable as possible in one topic or another. Maybe it means joining the workforce and trying to make as much money as you can.
For many of the recent graduates of the YWCA “Getting Ahead” Program, the definition looks different. For this group of women, “getting ahead” means setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them. It means committing to something and sticking to it, even when it’s inconvenient or hard. It means learning how to better manage finances, creating a budget and developing a financial plan for the future. Yes, the future may mean college or a well-paying job, but these graduates understand they have to build a foundation first.
On March 18, 24 Latina women met for the first time to participate in the Elkhart County YWCA “Getting Ahead” Program. They had no idea what they were stepping into.
YWCA program coordinator and bilingual advocate Diana Fabela was able to see a transformation take place every week of the program. “As the course progressed, the women as a group underwent a metamorphosis. They started making a beautiful connection with one another; they were no longer strangers, but friends. They began pouring their hearts out to each other; sharing their experiences of living in poverty, their life struggles and their dreams.”
Many of these women were living in poverty, grew up in poverty and were stuck in the cycle. Poverty is the only lifestyle they know. For these women, “getting ahead” meant taking that first step toward making a change.
“It was like learning how to ride a bicycle; you just have to keep pedaling to get where you want to go,” says graduate Marie, whose name has been changed.
Marie admits to leaving things unfinished when it came to self-improvement. She said, “It was too easy to start a project and then give up when things were hard.” However, she committed to going to classes at the YWCA twice a week for 18 weeks.
“They learned perseverance is the key to reaching goals,” said Fabela. She says the women held each other accountable to attend meetings and dedicated themselves to the process.
The hard work paid off. On June 9, in front of their closest family and friends, these women were recognized for their accomplishments and officially graduated from the Bridges Out Of Poverty Hispanic “Getting Ahead” program. The graduation ceremony was full of celebration and tears as the women shared what it took to get to this point, a point they never thought was possible.
“I learned to use the tools in this class to set goals within my reach and to work my way out of poverty. ‘Getting Ahead’ has taught me I don’t have to stay stuck in poverty – I can and will be a success, not a statistic,” said one graduate.
The graduation is just the beginning. Fabela said many of the students have gone on to participate in financial literacy and English as a second language (ESL) classes.
“The ‘Getting Ahead’ program was the first step. Now I have a plan of action and I know I can go after my dreams,” said Marie.
For more information on the YWCA’s economic empowerment classes, click here.