Building Bridges

Reducing the social costs of poverty, strengthening the workforce, and building a more prosperous and sustainable community are goals on which most communities agree. aha! Process’s Bridges Out of Poverty community support program provides a family of concepts, workshops, and products to help employers, community organizations, social service agencies, and individuals address and reduce poverty in a comprehensive way. Bridges brings people from all sectors and economic classes together to improve job retention rates, build resources, improve outcomes, and support those who are moving out of poverty.

Upcoming Events

Bridges Consultants

Quinton Askew

Nicole Baptiste

Phil DeVol

Ermina Soler

Eugene K. ‘Gene’ Krebs

Jim Ott

Kathy McPherson

Michael Saccocio

Prudence Pease

Ruby K. Payne

Suzie Johnson-Smith

Vern Reed

Treasure McKenzie

Nathan L. Mandsager

Monica Bein

Nyima Porter

Renee’ Parsons

Mary Cacioppi

Quinton Askew

Video Bio

Who is Quinton?

Quinton Askew has spent the past 15 years in executive leadership positions with nonprofits and state and local governments. He is currently president/CEO of 211Maryland. During his time as a director with the government of Howard County, Maryland, he oversaw the implementation of Bridges Out of Poverty, Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, and Getting Ahead While Getting Out. These efforts included an aftercare component, Staying Ahead, to support Getting Ahead graduates.

Quinton is also the founder of Conscious Minds Foundation, a community-based training and mentoring program whose mission is to strengthen families, improve youth outcomes, and engage the community. Quinton grew up in the city of Baltimore and has worked in nonprofit, government, and correctional institutions, giving him a keen understanding of growing up in an underserved, under-resourced community, navigating systems, as well as engaging community members from all demographics and economic backgrounds.

Quinton’s credentials

  • Certified, Six Sigma Green Belt
  • Certified, Traumatic Stress and Trauma Informed Care
  • Industrial Areas Foundation, Community Organizing Certification
  • Police and Correctional Training Academy, Certification
  • Bachelor of Science, Criminal Justice

Work history

  • Founder, Conscious Minds Foundation
  • President/CEO, 211Maryland
  • Director, Howard County Government
  • Cecil County Department of Corrections
  • Baltimore City Housing Authority
  • Baltimore City Department of Corrections
  • Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office

Quinton’s aha! moment

My aha! moment was the first-time I participated in a Bridges workshop and heard the phrase “build bridges by building relationships.” It was a simple yet powerful statement that I began to use as a framework for the work we did implementing the model in Howard County and in all my community engagement work. It has been great to see people’s lives impacted by the new relationships they have created!

Quinton’s passions
I’m passionate about working with people, especially those from underserved and under-resourced communities. I am passionate about creating sustainable communities where everyone’s voice is heard and where they have an inclusive seat at the table.

Quinton’s best training
The most inspiring moments during trainings are seeing audience members get an aha! moment and become personally impacted. It is a great experience when groups learn to see others who are different from them in a more conscious, positive way that is based on the assets and experiences they have and not on judgment about what they don’t know or don’t have.

What does Quinton do for fun?

I laugh as much as I can! My happy space is coaching my travel basketball team, reading, playing with my 12-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and enjoying life.

What people are saying about Quinton?

“Quinton was engaging, funny, and kept the information relevant to the group.”

“The presentation was informative, and the stories were great examples to understand in more detail.”

“Wonderful presentation and presenter. I had no idea some of the disconnects our organization had.”

Nicole Baptiste

One Page BioVideo Bio

Who is Nicole J. Baptiste?

Nicole J. Baptiste, LMSW was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a dedicated licensed social worker, Nicole has more than 10 years of experience working in health and human services. Nicole’s expertise is in program development, community building, and community engagement. She adopts a creative and strategic approach to linking and leveraging community resources. Nicole is the founder of Uproot and Build and consults with nonprofit and healthcare organizations in developing innovative community engagement strategies.

Nicole J. Baptiste’s credentials, degrees, and certifications

  • Bachelor of Arts, Sociology, State University of New York at Albany
  • Master of Social Work (MACRO concentration), State University of New York at Albany
  • Lean Six Sigma, Yellow Belt

Nicole J. Baptiste’s Work History

  • Uproot and Build, Founder
  • Resident Director/Programming Coordinator
  • Advisory Board Member, County Department of Senior Services and Long-Term Care
  • Board Member, Community Fathers, Inc.
  • Hospital Director, Social Work Services
  • Health Services Navigator, Medical Home
  • Patient Navigator, NYS Health Home
  • Program Coordinator, Community Service Program
  • Community Services Navigator/Senior Case Manager
  • Assistant Director, Youth Development Program

Nicole J. Baptiste’s aha! moment

When I worked as a patient navigator at a community hospital in upstate New York, I was called into the emergency room by a doctor and nurse to assist an uninsured patient who had returned to the facility for the third time in less than one month. On my way to the patient’s room, the ER nurse mumbled, “If the patient would spend her money on prescriptions instead of cigarettes, she would not be here.” I had recently shifted my paradigm through the Bridges Out of Poverty training and had developed an understanding of the mental model of poverty. I decided to engage the patient differently, and she disclosed that she was homeless, living illegally with her daughter and grandchildren in public housing. It was at that moment I realized: In order to be fully effective, I must develop an understanding of one’s concrete experience.

Nicole J. Baptiste’s passion

My passions include growing spiritually and serving in my local church and community. I am passionate about community building, and my vision is that a fully engaged community has the potential to develop into a vibrant and healthy community. I enjoy learning about different cultures and languages, which drives a deeper passion for traveling.

Nicole J. Baptiste’s best training

My best training is with physicians and nurses, coaching them to develop accurate mental models of poverty. In a sense, through an aha! moment, they develop their own understanding of the impacts of social determinants on health and health outcomes.

What does Nicole J. Baptiste do for fun?

I am a dedicated servant and enjoy working in my local church. I also truly enjoy experiencing new cultures, foods, and languages. I love to learn about the differences in other people; in doing so, I always learn how we are more similar than different.

Phil DeVol

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Phil?

Phil DeVol is an international consultant who has been working with aha! Process since 1997. He used aha! Process concepts to make institutional changes at the addiction treatment center where he was the executive director for 19 years. During this time he also co-wrote Bridges Out of Poverty with Ruby Payne and Terie Dreussi-Smith. His book Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-by-World is being used to engage people in poverty in the work of building communities where everyone can live well. It worked so well that DeVol used it as a basis for a prison reentry model called Getting Ahead while Getting Out.

He works with community leaders to help them move quickly from an attraction to application of Bridges concepts. Getting Ahead and Bridges are being used in hundreds of communities in the U.S., as well as a number sites in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. His books have been translated into Spanish, Slovak, and Czech.

Phil’s credentials


  • B.A., Capital University, Columbus, Ohio
  • Addiction Counselor, Ohio Credentialing Board, 1981–2001

Work history

  • Coordinator, Family and Children First Council, Morrow County, Ohio
  • Executive Director, Morrow County Council on Alcohol and Drugs
  • Trainer, Johnson Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Trainer, Children Are People, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Program Director, American Friends Service Committee, Fort Wayne, Indiana


  • Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities, revised 2009, with Ruby K. Payne and Terie Dreussi-Smith
  • Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World: Building Your Resources for a Better Life, revised 2012
  • Facilitator Notes for Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, revised 2012
  • Getting Ahead while Getting Out: A prisoner reentry model to reduce recidivism through learning, building resources, accountability, and collaboration, 2015, with Michelle Wood and Mitchell Libster
  • User Guide for Getting Ahead while Getting Out: A prisoner reentry model to reduce recidivism through learning, building resources, accountability, and collaboration, 2015, with Michelle Wood and Mitchell Libster
  • Bridges to Sustainable Communities: A systemwide, cradle-to-grave approach to ending poverty in America, 2010
  • Investigations into Economic Class in America, 2010, with Karla M. Krodel
  • Facilitator Notes for Investigations into Economic Class in America, 2010, with Karla M. Krodel
  • The Complete Guide to Elementary Student Assistance Programs: Strategy, Policy, and Procedure, 1993, with Linda Christensen

Phil’s aha! moment

There have been a series of aha! moments as the work deepened. The big moment was: We’ve been planning programs for people in poverty without having them at the planning and decision making table.

Phil’s passions?

Seeing Getting Ahead investigators participate in the transformation of their world makes me happy. I also enjoy being part of the Bridges learning community that uses Bridges concepts to generate new ways to build resources.

Phil’s best training

The methodology for Getting Ahead and Bridges works off the principle of attraction. It shifts ownership of the concepts to others and encourages them to innovate. The idea that people learn without being “taught” is central to the development of sustainable Bridges communities.

What does Phil do for fun?

I like to ride and be around horses. Laughing with family and friends makes my day, and I like to sit on the veranda and watch the pets play and the trees grow.

What are people saying about Phil and his concepts?

“Phil DeVol’s ideas have provided our students/clients/customers, along with our institutions/agencies/churches, with two critical factors for change. The first is new insight into one another’s mindsets and lives, which allows respectful relationships to develop—and gets people to listen and hear and understand in new ways what they thought they once knew. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. The second is a continuum of strategies and work to be done that gives everyone a place at the table. The practice of inclusion also cannot be overemphasized.”

“One of the important mental models for me has been the research on the four areas of poverty. This research isn’t based on just one area—the choices of individuals in poverty—it also includes the absence of human and social capital in our communities, as well as exploitation and political/economic structures. There is a shift in thought for the participants who work with the Getting Ahead workbook when they realize they aren’t solely responsible for their poverty. This becomes a bridge for them to believe that if a community works together to eliminate all these causes of poverty, there is hope for a sustainable community.”

“Bridges concepts help restore the vigor of the American Dream so that individuals from all walks of life can imagine and write their own future stories. Bridges to Sustainable Communities is a needed next step in helping our communities do the same.”

Ermina Soler

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Ermina?

Ermina was born into generational poverty and raised in the “projects” of Brooklyn, New York. She spent much of her young adult life raising her two children on the Island of Puerto Rico where she experienced a “different kind of poverty.” In her quest for a better life for herself and her children, she relocated to Iowa in the Midwest, seeking the “All-American Dream,” where she came across Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. As a graduate of Getting ahead, she went on to lead and coordinate efforts in her community, co-implementing a community engagement model that brings together all socioeconomic class groups with the common goal of building relationships of mutual respect. Through her personal experience and knowledge of diversity, she offered weekly gatherings to share insight into the struggles and barriers individuals and families face when experiencing daily instabilities. She inspired and led that work for eight years.

Ermina’s credentials

Work history

  • Dental Assistant, Laboratory Assistant, Medical Billing and Records Keeping, Centro de Salud de Quebradillas, Puerto Rico
  • AmeriCorps Member, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Circles Coach and Circles Coordinator, Dubuque, Iowa

Awards and recognitions

  • 2016 United Nations International Day of Peace, Local Women Leaders Working for Peace and Justice
  • 2016 Girl Scouts of America, Wonder Woman in the Community
  • 2012 Women’s Leadership Network, Woman of Achievement for Growth and Accomplishments in Personal Life

Ermina’s aha! moment

My aha! moment occurred as an investigator in Getting Ahead in 2008. While learning about the research continuum and the causes of poverty, I was able to accept where my individual choices had contributed to my experience living in poverty, but I was also able to forgive myself for the circumstances that were outside of my control. I learned how phenomena like the cliff effect play an integral part in whether or not a person will “get ahead.” I also realized the importance of understanding how systems operate, not only to get needs met, but to navigate through them without forming a dependency on them.

Ermina’s passions

I value people and the perspectives they bring. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and learning about the various walks of life we all lead. I love being able to contribute and give back where I can, especially to individuals who struggle to get by.

Ermina’s best trainings

The best trainings I have are the ones I learn and grow from. I realize that the audience is there to learn from me, but I always walk away with new insight into something I can do better or at least differently next time.

What does Ermina do for fun?

I enjoy being creative—putting together vision boards, collages, fairy gardens, and decorating the interior of my home. I love to read and write and journal. Most of all, I appreciate the time I spend with my three children watching movies, playing board games, and visiting new places while making memories of our time together.

Eugene K. ‘Gene’ Krebs

One Page Bio

Eugene K. “Gene” Krebs spent eight years in the Ohio House of Representatives, three years on a local school board, and four years as a county commissioner. With Phil DeVol he is coauthor of Bridges Across Every Divide.

Krebs has been a research executive in an organization that studies economic development, urban revitalization, and farmland preservation. Later he was an executive in a research group that studies healthcare and human-service issues. He served on Ohio’s Joint Committee on High Technology Start-up Business, Sales Tax Holiday Study Committee (chair), and the Eminent Domain Task Force.

He was appointed by Governor Ted Strickland to Ohio’s 21st Century Transportation Task Force and by Governor John Kasich to the Local Government Innovation Council. Krebs is a three-time winner of the Watchdog of the Treasury award for supporting fiscally frugal policies and has a concealed-carry license.

He also has appeared on a regular basis on the PBS television show Columbus on the Record and has been featured on CNN, BBC, The State of Ohio, The Spectrum, and All Sides with Ann Fisher as a Republican voice on many political and policy issues.

Further, Krebs has been published in The Wall Street Journal on economic policy and several times in The Columbus Dispatch and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) on state policy issues and is frequently sought by the media for insights on various issues. His scientific research in quantum biology and ethology appeared in the Journal of Biological Psychology, and his ag research was featured in The Ohio Farmer magazine for his innovations involving the use of zinc as an enzyme inhibitor to reduce nitrogen loss in no-till settings.

Krebs was awarded the Preservation Hero Award from Heritage Ohio for his efforts in drafting, passing, and defending the state tax credit for historical rehabilitation, which is now a national model due in large part to its requirement of cost-benefit analysis of all prospective projects.

He recently resigned as the chair of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Governing Board. While he was chair of the board, the Consumers’ Counsel saved consumers $800 million in utility costs, with another $5 billion projected over the next nine years. Originally appointed by then Attorney General Jim Petro, Krebs has been consistently reappointed to the board by both Republican and Democrat attorneys general due to his expertise in utility law and economics.

A former inter-collegiate fencing coach, Krebs is a seventh-generation farmer of 400 acres where he was a pioneer in no-till methodology and still lives on the family farm near Morning Sun, Ohio.

He is married to Jan, an award-winning professional artist who works in many different styles and materials. They have two grown daughters who have blessed them with five grandchildren. His principal hobby is a small flock of mostly Dominique chickens, the breed brought to America by the Pilgrims.

Jim Ott

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Jim?

Jim Ott has been a school psychologist with the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency out of Bettendorf, Iowa, since 1984. He has served a variety of schools in rural Jackson County for his entire career. Jim is the co-founder of the City of Dubuque’s Circles Initiative, which is applying Bridges Out of Poverty Concepts at the community level through workshops, trainings, and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World groups. Jim also presents Emotional Poverty workshops. He has been a national consultant with aha! Process since 2010.

Jim’s credentials


  • Specialist in School Psychology Services (S.Psy.S.), Central Michigan University
  • Master’s in Psychology, Central Michigan University
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Central Michigan University

Jim’s aha! moment

My first aha! moment in a series of many came during my first Framework Train the Trainers in Las Vegas in 2006. I knew the power of relationship in my work but had never thought of it being applied in the context of economic class. Having my eyes opened by Ruby and her team gave me new enthusiasm for building successful relationships with students and their families in my schools. I quickly saw the application at the community level and became something of a “Bridges Out of Poverty evangelist” in my hometown of Dubuque. It has been a great joy to see lives changed in the schools I serve and the community where I live!

Jim’s passions?

I have a passion for people, and especially kids. I am fortunate to get to live out my passion professionally and in my volunteer work in Dubuque. I am passionate about my family and my faith. I love communicating powerful information in an effective way that encourages and builds up others who are serving people in the many contexts in which I get to provide trainings.

Jim’s best training

Although there are many examples, one stands out as a favorite among those which prove to me again and again that the Framework/Bridges concepts are the most respectful way to view the issue of real poverty that I have encountered. Following one brief overview that I did for a community group primarily made up of social workers from various agencies, a lady came up to me and said, “I am living in middle class now, but I grew up in poverty, and there is much about my background that I value and love to this day. This is the first time I have heard poverty talked about in a way that didn’t make me think that I was supposed to be ashamed of my past.”

What does Jim do for fun?

I love being with my family and making music together with them. There are various instruments in the family, and everyone sings. These are precious moments that we share together. I love listening to my children perform. I also enjoy hockey and soccer—not playing as much as I used to, but enjoying watching my son.

What are people saying about Jim?

“Jim was an extremely great trainer. I like how he kept my attention. I thought he was honest and not afraid to be real. I like how he tied it in with daily life. Thanks.”

“This presentation was informative, interesting, and entertaining. I appreciated the stories he had to tell and how they were closely related to topic ideas.”

“Jim is a dynamic speaker and great at keeping the audience engaged.”

“Great workshop! Jim is an engaging and knowledgeable presenter. Lots of ‘aha’ moments today.”

“Very exciting, interesting, and motivating. I learned a great deal—hidden rules, social values. Presenter is very humorous but very knowledgeable. Great program!”

“Wonderful presenter. I enjoyed his stories and sense of humor. He talked at our level and it was easy to understand and follow along.”

Great energy! He kept this… training interesting, interactive, exciting and relevant to our job and goals with families.”

Kathy McPherson

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who Is Kathy McPherson?

Kathy June McPherson of Columbus, Ohio, grew up in the little village of Urbancrest, Ohio, where everyone knew and supported each other. Although it was a poverty-stricken community, all needs were met because of the community structure. Moving to Columbus, Ohio, as a teen provided a new and different experience. In 1993 Kathy began working in the field of social work, where she was later introduced to Bridges Out of Poverty. Working with indigent populations of men, women, and children provided a perfect platform for understanding concepts that could be integrated into her work to create better outcomes for her clients. The Bridges Out of Poverty workshop was also an aha! moment for her because it described her life growing up in many ways. Kathy has worked as a chemical dependency counselor, case manager, court liaison, and with specialty dockets. She has been very active in the community as a mentor, scout mother, dance troop mother, and in other activities. She is currently a program coordinator at Crossroads Recovery and has started a consulting business, K. Consultants. Through aha! Process Kathy is an experienced presenter for Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World workgroups. Kathy has facilitated Getting Ahead workgroups since 2004 and joined aha! Process as a consultant in 2008.

Work and education

  • Chemical Dependency and Mental Health, Columbus State Community College
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse Clinical Trials, Best Practices (Trauma and Substance Use), University of Cincinnati and Columbia University
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Trauma Counselor, Case Manager, Court Liaison, Maryhaven AOD Treatment Facility
  • Program Coordinator, Alcohol/Drug and Intervention Counselor, Domestic Violence Counselor, Outreach Specialist, Crossroads Recovery Services


Kathy closely collaborates with other agencies in the community. Much of her career has been spent working with criminal and/or at-risk offenders, women with substance abuse and soliciting issues, perpetrators of domestic violence, and women with trauma. Kathy is a trained facilitator for the Ohio Cross Discipline Training Process and Ohio Violence Prevention Process. She has served on multiple boards, such as the Central Ohio Batterer Intervention Program Coalition and the Metropolitan Community Service Organization. Kathy volunteers in various arenas including Boy and Girl Scouts, school, church, and community.

Kathy’s aha! moment

I first began using this work with a group of drug court specialty docket probationers in 2004. It made such an impact on the investigators for them to examine their lives and communities and see themselves build their own future stories. The process was amazing to watch: men and women making the argument for changing their lives, then following through. I remember at one point telling Phil DeVol, “I can do this for the rest of my life.” He responded “Really?” with a smile on his face. I began the process and became part of the aha! Process team in 2008.

Kathy’s passions?

I like to live life to its fullest and help others do so. Take what you have, do the best with what you’ve got, then keep adding just a little more. Adding just a little more can add fulfillment to your life. It’s the simple things, like meeting someone new, learning and trying new things. Just a little can really go a long way in life.

What does Kathy do for fun?

I love nature, the outdoors. Taking time to look at and be in a natural habitat gives me peace and serenity no matter what the weather. I also love people. Elders and young children are my favorite. Taking time to listen to elders’ stories is such a unique experience. It takes me back in time, it’s an education, and it’s priceless. Listening to children is refreshing and new. It’s seeing the world through their eyes.

What are people saying about Kathy?

“I really learned a lot from the Getting Ahead workgroup experience. It changed my life for the better. Kathy is a very good facilitator and friend.”

“Bridges Out of Poverty was one of the best workshops I’ve attended. The facilitator was great, the way she interacted with the audience.”

Michael Saccocio

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Michael Saccocio is the Executive Director of City Mission of Schenectady (NY). Over the course of his leadership, the Mission has added several new programs and engaged in an $8 million capital expansion and neighborhood revitalization effort.

His work in helping people move from poverty to self-sufficiency and community leadership is featured in the books Vision to Action: Best Practices to Reduce the Impact of Poverty, (Volumes 1 and 2), andwas included in an issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. He speaks extensively throughout the region and nation on topics of leadership, faith and community collaboration.

Mike is a graduate of Union College and has a Master’s Degree from Regent University in Virginia. In June he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Union Graduate College. He and his wife Carol live in Glenville. They have two sons in college.

Mike has previously served as Deputy Mayor of the City of Schenectady, and has played professional baseball in the Montreal Expos organization. In 2010 he coached the Rotterdam Rangers baseball team to the NABF National Championship.

Mike is the founder of the Schenectady Bridges Transformation Project which was recently awarded a $1 million grant from a local, private foundation. He has received numerous awards for community service including the 2014 Community Heroes Award (The Schenectady Foundation), the 2013 Proctors Supporter of the Arts Honoree, and 2011 Executive Leadership Award (Tech Valley Nonprofit Business Council).

Prudence Pease

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Prudence?

Prudence Pease of Tunbridge, Vermont, created a career dedicated to advancing the lives of others in her community and the state of Vermont. Fifteen years ago Prudence began this journey serving as a community leadership facilitator and later as a community coordinator. She went on to work as a peer navigator with the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Along the way Prudence became involved in politics. She ran for and was elected as the senior assistant judge of Orange County, Vermont. In this role she managed the county’s judicial system and presided over small claims, family, and traffic court. Prudence is a certified Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator and has trained more than 5,000 individuals in Bridges work, including human service providers, HR professionals, and employers. Her personal story of growth and change as she traveled the road from welfare mom to judicial officer is extremely compelling and demonstrates beautifully the messages of Bridges Out of Poverty. Prudence is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute. She is a highly sought-after speaker and currently contracts with United Way of Chittenden County and aha! Process.

Prudence’s credentials


  • B.A. in Professional Studies, Johnson State College, 2014
  • Associate’s Degree in Accounting, Community College of Vermont
  • Vermont Leadership Institute, Snelling Center for Government
  • Certified Family Support Facilitator, University of Vermont Affiliated Programs

Work history

  • Family Support Specialist/Parent Educator, Rutland County Parent Child Center
  • Certified Facilitator/Trainer, United Way Chittenden County, Vermont
  • Assistant Judge, Orange County Superior Court, Vermont
  • Certified Facilitator/Trainer, Vermont Agency of Human Services
  • Peer Navigator/Resource Coordinator, Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
  • Community Coordinator, Community Partnership of Orange/Windsor

Prudence’s aha! moment

I attended my first Bridges presentation in 2005 while serving as a judicial officer. I came away speechless from the number of aha! moments I had experienced. In the months that followed, I saw Bridges concepts in my courtroom, in my community, and in my family. I began training Bridges for the Vermont Agency of Human Services in 2007. I trained across the state, zigzagging between regional offices. I officially joined the aha! Process team in June 2011. Today I see the world through a Bridges “lens,” and the aha! moments just keep coming.

Prudence’s passions

Creating future stories! Over the years as a young mom on welfare, I struggled with creating my future story. Today one of my greatest joys is creating future stories through the use of bridging capital. I spend part of each week teaching in an alternative classroom for pregnant and parenting teens ages 14–21. To be a part of these young people’s future is an extraordinary journey—watching them grow as parents and individuals, encouraging them to build connections in their community, witnessing their success. I believe with my whole heart that each of us has the capacity to become bridging capital!

Prudence’s best training

Economic diversity is not an easy conversation. When I can inspire discussion that challenges our own individual mental models, that is the point where learning begins. Bridges Out of Poverty is the first step in moving from tolerance to acceptance. When you understand why people do what they do, why they make the decisions that they make, when you reach that place of acceptance, you can build a relationship. Relationships have the power to change and design a new world. An inclusive world …

What does Prudence do for fun?

Critters, critters, and more critters! My life is filled with all types of critters, both inside and outside the house. I live on a working dairy farm, but aside from the the cows I have horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, and pigeons that live outside. Inside we have an assortment of dogs, cats, lizards, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs. If you can name it, I probably have it. Where did all the critters come from? Most are rescues—animals that have been neglected and abused and have come to my home to have a second chance at life.

What are people saying about Prudence?

“Excellent presentation! Now I understand the impact of a lack of resources and the importance of relationships to people in generational poverty.”

“I loved this presentation! I will use this in every interaction with everyone I deal with professionally and personally.”

Ruby K. Payne

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Ruby?

Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. lives in Texas. She was born in Indiana and spent her youth in Ohio. She has been a high school teacher, a central office administrator, a consultant for two different regional service centers, and an elementary principal. She has spoken to more than a million educators and has given more than 4,000 speeches and presentations around the world, including engagements in such countries as China, India, Trinidad, Slovakia, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Canada. She is the author of Emotional Poverty and A Framework for Understanding Poverty, which has sold more than 1.8 million copies.

Ruby’s credentials


  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Loyola University
  • M.A. in English Literature, Western Michigan University
  • B.A., Goshen College

Work history

  • Founder and CEO, aha! Process
  • Director of Professional Development, Goose Creek Consolidated ISD, Texas
  • Elementary Principal, Barrington ISD, Illinois
  • Principal Academic Coordinator, Lake County Educational Service Center, Illinois

Selected publications

  • A Framework for Understanding Poverty
  • Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities
  • Emotional Poverty in All Demographics
  • Before You Quit Teaching
  • Removing the Mask: Giftedness in Poverty, with Paul Slocumb
  • Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew up in Different Worlds
  • Working with Students: Discipline Strategies for the Classroom
  • Working with Parents: Building Relationships for Student Success
  • Under-Resourced Learners: 8 Strategies to Boost Student Achievement
  • Research-Based Strategies: Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Under-Resourced Students
  • Boys in Poverty: A Framework for Understanding Dropout, with Paul Slocumb
  • From Understanding Poverty to Developing Human Capacity: Ruby Payne’s Articles on Transforming Individuals, Families, Schools, Churches, and Communities

Ruby’s aha! moment

When I realized that individuals had no idea about the reality of generational poverty. Because I had been immersed in it for so long, it was one of those understandings that I thought everyone had. This is why I wrote Framework. I named the company aha! Process because so many people wrote on the evaluations that it was an “aha!” for them.

Ruby’s passions

My true passion is teaching and learning. I am absolutely fascinated by how individuals think. I love to read and find new ideas and thinking. I always wanted to be a teacher, and now I simply teach adults.

Ruby’s best training

My best trainings are when someone will come to me and say, “Thank you. Now I understand my mother,” or “my brother,” or “my marriage.” Or they will say, “This information kept me in teaching. It changed my life.”

What does Ruby do for fun?

I love to read and dance. My husband, Tee Bowman, has two boats, so we go out in a boat to relax on the water. I love a good restaurant and a good glass of red wine. I enjoy travel. I like getting up early to meditate before the day starts—when the day is quiet and I can be reflective. I like spending time with my son and with Tee’s children. And, oh yes, I love shoes!

Suzie Johnson-Smith

Video Bio

Who is Suzie?

Suzie Johnson-Smith of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, has been working in human services since 1992, primarily supporting low-income people in need of financial and employment assistance. She provided front-line case management for 12 years before becoming a coach and supervisor within the social services division. She leads the local office in promoting person-centered service while modernizing the delivery of social assistance. In 2012, Suzie began to introduce and promote the Bridges framework starting with her local social assistance office. In 2016, as a certified trainer, she began expanding to the broader community. Suzie strongly believes that the Bridges out of Poverty framework can and should inform our practices for improved relationships and outcomes. Suzie has been a presenter of the Bridges Out of Poverty model for teachers, employers, social services organizations, health agencies, landlords, community volunteers, and interested citizens.

Suzie’s credentials

  • Certified Life and Executive Coach, CCF Canada
  • Teacher/Trainer of Adult Learning, Fleming College
  • Social Service Worker Diploma, Fleming College
  • aha! Process Certifications: Bridges Out of Poverty, Workplace Stability, Emotional Poverty, The R Rules, Bridges to Health and Healthcare, Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, Getting Ahead While Getting Out, Getting Ahead in the Workplace

Suzie’s aha! moment

My first of many aha! moments happened in 2012 when we organized a two-day Bridges Out of Poverty workshop for all of Central Eastern Ontario social services offices. I was so profoundly moved that first workshop day, realizing that this was the missing piece of my career puzzle. I had the sudden awareness that I had been carrying (and sometimes imposing) my lens to the people we served, which had unknowingly been interfering with relationships and outcomes. I returned to work with new enthusiasm to make a difference with our clients, staff, overall service delivery, and community. Developing an internal working group of champions to implement the constructs within our social services division was our first step. Then, in 2016, we began offering Getting Ahead, and I became a Bridges certified trainer. It is such an incredible experience building a Bridges community and engaging all sectors and classes to work together for overall improved quality of life.

Suzie’s passions

My passions are my incredible family and supporting people to learn, thrive, and grow. I feel so passionate and blessed to be living out my career dreams and helping to facilitate aha! moments for others.

Suzie’s best training

My best training moments happen when I see transformational changes in thinking and perceptions right before my very eyes. During one community Bridges session, an attendee was very openly negative about people who are struggling in poverty/instability. At the end of the session, he told the group: “I will be much more cautious of my bias, and I apologize for my statements at the beginning of the day.” His evaluation form was even more hopeful: “This was the most powerful presentation I have ever had. It was a very humbling experience with a lot of takeaway information for much-needed further self-reflection.”

What does Suzie do for fun?

Having remarried in 2018, I love spending time with my new husband! We are enjoying our newest venture in tent-trailer camping and love to travel more broadly together as well. He is my biggest supporter of the Bridges work and encourages me with every step of this endeavor! I also love spending time with my (grown) amazing children whenever they can squeeze me into their busy schedules!

What are people saying about Suzie?

“Very informative and interesting. Such passion. Will definitely be implementing in my future career.”

“Suzie did an amazing job. She is very passionate about Bridges, which is enlightening and empowering. Loved the stories and humour throughout!”

“Fantastic presentation! Suzie’s passion showed in all aspects of the material. It really inspired me to re-evaluate my practices. Flow was fantastic and kept me interested!”

“Great presentation, love your passion. I did have many aha! moments.”

“Just totally excellent! Suzie is so engaging! Want more of this! Really important stuff!”

“Excellent workshop, really important topics were discussed to improve the way we serve our clients. Excellent and engaging presenter—I kept interested all day long!”

“Thank you, very helpful info, allows me to see things from different perspectives.”

“Amazing workshop! Engaging, and offers new perspective on front-line work. This WILL make a difference for my clients!”

“Really hit home…a lot of self-reflection. More self-reflection will be had at home to build on strategies. Wonderful and engaging presenter!”

Vern Reed

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Vern?

Vern spent much of his early career in education as a teacher/coach at West Burlington High School in West Burlington, Iowa. But, at some point in his journey, students once classified as “at risk” began finding their way to Vern and his wife, Cindee. Eventually, Vern began to understand that his life had to be more than coaching basketball. Somehow, some way, he had to find a way to better impact these students’ opportunities to write their own “future stories.”

Eight years ago, Vern lobbied to become the official “at risk” point person at West Burlington High School. Since that time the “Success Center”—essentially a place no student ever wanted to go—has become “The Corners.” The Corners serves more than 120 junior high and high school students, and it has become the place that not only under-resourced students want to be a part of, but almost every student in the school makes use of on a regular basis.

Vern’s school brought Bridges Out of Poverty to Southeast Iowa. Since December 2015, the partnership has grown to include local businesses, churches, the local community college, Great River Health Systems, and many more key partners. Vern consults and trains on the topics of addressing poverty and emotional poverty.

Vern’s aha! moment

Aha! moments have become an everyday occurrence in my Bridges journey. Like many people, for too long I’ve fought the “symptoms” of a “metaphorical disease” that is generational poverty. In reality, my biggest aha! may have been the Bridges definition of poverty! Understanding that poverty is about resources, not necessarily money, has empowered me and all who are on their own Bridges journeys. We can all work together to help build the key resources that we all need to live a sustainable life.

Vern’s passions

For my wife Cindee and me, our passion has always been finding ways to help and connect to our students. We have so many children caught in the tyranny of the moment that is generational poverty. When we attended a Bridges certification training in Santa Fe to become Bridges trainers, we realized at that moment that our passion had met a pathway to truly helping our students write their future stories. Bridges has changed who we are and how we do what we do…forever.

Vern’s best training

I’m not sure I can pick a best training. All bring something unique to the table, and the Bridges constructs allow each training to fit the needs of that particular audience. It is really amazing to watch how that happens! I can say that the best part of any training is getting to be a part of the aha! moments each participant experiences.

What does Vern do for fun?

My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife and sons! If that time can be spent boating, that is even better. I enjoy getting to know people, drinking a good cup of coffee, and when time allows, a book that challenges my thinking.

Treasure McKenzie

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Treasure?

Treasure earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Northeastern State University in Talequah, Oklahoma. She began her career at the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce in 1999 as the program director, served as the vice president of tourism and marketing for six years, and as president and CEO from 2012 to 2016. Under her experienced and creative leadership, the Muskogee Chamber was awarded seven Redbud Awards by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

Treasure was named one of Oklahoma Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40.” She became a certified True Colors instructor in 2015. Treasure has a passion for helping others and volunteered for Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty for two years before being named director in July 2016. She has since implemented several new programs for Getting Ahead graduates such as financial literacy classes and a car donation program to help with transportation. Muskogee was named Bridges Out of Poverty’s Community of the Year in 2016.

Treasure’s credentials, degrees, and certifications

  • Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University in business administration
  • Named one of Oklahoma Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 Professionals” in Oklahoma
  • Certified True Color International presenter
  • Certified Bridges Out of Poverty presenter and national consultant
  • Tourism Executive Certification from Texas Travel Industry Association
  • Led Muskogee Chamber of Commerce’s tourism department to receive six Oklahoma Redbud Tourism Awards:
  • Best Marketing Campaign
  • Best New Event (ESPN Bassmaster Elite Fishing Tournament and Festival)
  • Best Social Media Campaign (Proud to Be an Okie From Muskogee 40th Anniversary)
  • Best Brochure (Motorcycle Ride Guide)
  • Best Website (Visit Muskogee)
  • Merit Award for Tourism Organization of the Year
  • Graduate of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce Executive’s Chamber Management Institute
  • Steering committee member and volunteer for Bridges Out Of Poverty
  • Board of directors member, Muskogee County Council of Youth Services

Treasure’s work history

  • Director, Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty
  • President and CEO, Muskogee Chamber of Commerce
  • Tourism Director, Muskogee Chamber of Commerce
  • Program Director, Muskogee Chamber of Commerce
  • Conference Center Coordinator, Northeastern State University

Treasure’s aha! moment

After attending my first Bridges Out of Poverty workshop conducted by Tom Martindale, my head was spinning. Finally, I knew why I grew up in poverty but didn’t realize it—resources. I was rich in most of the resources, but very low in financial. It was validating to have the vocabulary to express my past. I feel like that is the reason I was able to escape the cycle.

Treasure’s passion

My passions include helping others become their best selves, building relationships across all classes, and teaching financial literacy classes to Getting Ahead graduates. I love to witness the aha! moments and celebrate their successes. I enjoy teaching True Colors Personality Assessments to businesses, facilitating Getting Ahead investigations, and leading youth groups. I also enjoy volunteering in my community to support local efforts like mud volleyball for youth services, music trivia nights for Rotary International, and large music festivals to increase tourism.

Treasure’s best training

My best training was with the Greater Muskogee Area Manufacturers Alliance. These are industry leaders who employ a large number of under-resourced people. When I asked if anyone says anything when the manager comes in 15 minutes late to work, they said no. But when I asked what happens when a person in poverty comes in 10 minutes late, this sparked a wonderful discussion about how many times they have fired their best workers because their truck broke down, causing them to be late. I was excited to see them discuss how easy it would have been to offer help by creating a ride-share program or adjusting the policies in their respective businesses.

What does Treasure do for fun?

I love being a tourist—planning vacations, exploring new cities, relaxing on a cruise, skiing down a mountain, fishing, four-wheeling, and off-roading in my jeep. I enjoy painting, arts and crafts, anything with live music, and live theater.

Nathan L. Mandsager

One Page Bio

Who is Nathan?

Nathan Mandsager was born in Iowa and lived all over the country before settling in Schenectady, New York, where he has lived for the past 20 years. Nathan launched Schenectady Works, a division of the City Mission of Schenectady, in 2013, and currently serves as associate executive director. He is committed to empowering employees and employers by focusing on retention and improved productivity. Through innovative initiatives that have led to dynamic, communitywide partnerships among agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations, and community leaders, he seeks to remove barriers, build resources, and support the community in the journey from instability to thriving stability and growth.

Nathan’s credentials, degrees, and certificates

  • B.A. in World History at the University at Albany, graduating with honors, Albany, NY (2000)
  • M.A. in Missional Leadership at The Resurgence Training Center, Seattle WA (2011)
  • Foundations and Principles of Holistic Ministry, Chalmers Center (2011)
  • FEMA Disaster Management and Coordination (2012)
  • National Trainer’s Certification in Bridges Out of Poverty
  • Recipient of The Schenectady Foundation’s Community Hero Award (2014)
  • Recipient of the Chamber of Commerce’s Good News Award (2012, 2018)
  • Recipient of The Albany Business Review’s 40 Under 40 Award (2015)
  • Recognized at the Fourth Annual Community Father’s Conference for Dedicated Community Service (2016)
  • Workforce Development and Community Education Advisory Committee, SCCC (current)
  • Nonprofit Advisory Committee, Capital Region Chamber (current)

Nathan’s work history

  • Associate Executive Director, Schenectady Works, City Mission (2012–current)
  • Coordinator of Schenectady Bridges Collaboration (2012–2017)
  • Chairman of the Board for ChildVoice International, (2016–current)
  • Elder at CityView Church, Scotia, NY (2016–current)
  • Coordinator of the Flood Recovery Coalition for Schenectady County (2011–2012)
  • Associate Pastor of Calvary Tabernacle (2000–2011)
  • Cofounder of the Haven Family Center (2005)
  • Wrestling Coach, Schenectady City School District (2001–2010)
  • Elementary Teacher (fifth and sixth grades, 2000–2002)
  • Led multiple development and mission teams to countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Haiti, working with individuals in absolute poverty to rebuild their lives (2001–current)

Nathan’s aha! moment

Recognizing—no matter the context—that relational credibility built on consistency and trust proves to be the ultimate game-changer every time. By establishing trusted relationships with colleagues, employees, friends, community members, and family, there is really no limit to what can be accomplished.

Nathan’s passion

Too much in this world screams of individualism and self-gratification. I despise these things in myself and fight against them in our world. Though they are present, I refuse to settle for the status quo. Too much is at stake. Whatever I do, I want it to be within an environment where greatness is expected of me and in the community around me. I believe that we serve better, sacrifice more, and reach greater potential when we are united in purpose. Together we can see lives rescued from the horrors of our world, communities transformed into places of safety and hope, corporations that forgo the pursuits of wealth for the greater good, and families restored to a place of original beauty.

Nathan’s best training

My best training is when I engage with business leaders who are influential in their corporate structure and local community. It is crucial that they understand and grasp the skills and tools to better utilize the assets at their disposal and empower their workforce, which contributes to the health of the wider communities.

What does Nathan do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my wife, Pam, who I’ve been married to for 18 years; whether it’s snowshoeing, reading, working on house projects, going for a ride on the motorcycle, or traveling far and wide. I also really enjoy engaging with my two kids, Zak (17) and Grayce (almost 13). I appreciate regular exercise and a good cup of coffee.

Monica Bein

One Page Bio

Monica Bein, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, of Oklahoma is a supervisor in the physical medicine department at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to her supervisory role, she works with patients, providing evaluations and therapy for swallowing disorders and stroke. Monica has been a Bridges Out of Poverty consultant for aha! Process since 2005. She has a diverse professional background, including providing early intervention services for children with speech/language delay, working for Tulsa County Health Department, and teaching for Northeastern State University and Oklahoma State University. She is frequently involved with nonprofit organizations in the Hispanic community that provide services to families in Tulsa and Peru. During her career, she has implemented the Bridges framework and facilitated the Getting Ahead program in school and nonprofit agency settings.

Monica’s master’s degree in speech pathology has led to international experiences. She studied in France and worked in Bosnian and Romanian orphanages, providing staff training and therapy for children with special needs. She is often called upon to provide expertise for local magazines, newspapers, and other news media. She collaborates with several community agencies, including the Children First program, Sooner Start early intervention program, Tulsa Community Service Council, and local schools and libraries.

Monica’s credentials


  • Master of Education in Speech-Language Pathology, 1998
  • Bachelor of Science, 1996

Work history

  • Saint Francis Hospital, Speech-Language Pathologist, 2011–present
  • Scholl Center for Communication Disorders, Speech-Language Pathologist, 2010–2011
  • Oklahoma State University, Clinical Instructor and Clinic Supervisor, January 2008–2010
  • Oklahoma Neurospecialty Hospital, Speech-Language Pathologist, December 2009–2010
  • Tulsa City-County Health Department (Child Guidance Program), Speech-Language Pathologist, 1999–2008
  • Oklahoma State Department of Health (Creek County Early Intervention Program), Speech-Language Pathologist, May 1998 –1999
  • Northeastern State University, Instructor in Special Education and Sign Language, May 2000–2004
  • Tulsa Community College, Adjunct Instructor for Child Development Program, 2003–2006
  • Bosnia Speech and Hearing Project, Volunteer Speech-Language Pathologist, 2002
  • Bridges International, Volunteer Speech-Language Pathologist, Romania, 2000


  • Teaching Speech the Fun Way, Two Harbors Press, 2007

Monica’s aha! moment

I officially joined the aha! Process team a few years after hearing Ruby Payne speak to a group of local educators and nonprofit organizations. Ruby’s stories and insight just made sense and were applicable to so many professions. I immediately became interested in learning more and sharing my own experience with others.

Monica’s passions?

My biggest professional passion is helping people communicate more effectively. As a speech-language pathologist, my goal is for everyone to have means of communication. I am also extremely passionate about helping patients by understanding their life stories and working with their family members while they rehabilitate. Personally, my passions include my family; playing guitar; sign language and the deaf community; learning Spanish; and sewing.

Monica’s best training

My favorite moments during Bridges workshops occur whenever someone says, “This has been the best training I’ve ever attended because now I understand how to more effectively communicate with the people I serve.” One workshop participant said, “My whole perception about my customers has changed. I will never make judgments again. Instead, I create relationships and learn their stories.”

What does Monica do for fun?

I have a passion for music. I sing and play guitar in a classic rock band and a Latin band. I also enjoy learning languages and experiencing different cultures. I love both big city life and visiting my family’s farm in the country.

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