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.

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Bridges Consultants

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Quinton Askew

Nicole Baptiste

Phil DeVol

Gary Eagleton

Debora McDermed

Ermina Soler

Eugene K. ‘Gene’ Krebs

Jim Ott

Kathy McPherson

Michael Saccocio

Michelle Wood

Mitchell Libster

Pedro Perez

Prudence Pease

Regina Lewis

Ruby K. Payne

Sonia Holycross

Suzie Johnson-Smith

Terie Dreussi-Smith

Vern Reed

Treasure McKenzie

Nathan L. Mandsager

Monica Bein

Kristie Place

Nyima Porter

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.”

Gary Eagleton

One Page Bio

Who is Gary?

Gary Eagleton was born in a small, rural community that his family settled in the late 1800s (Barrett Station, Texas). He has dedicated his life to “creating a climate for change” within communities, faith-based organizations, individuals, and families across the country. He has emerged as a highly respected and popular speaker on the circuit today. Gary integrates research- and evidence-based strategies with an engaging professional presence that audiences find captivating. Through aha! Process Gary provides training and consulting services for A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Bridges Out of Poverty, and Guarding the HEARTS of Minority Boys. His affiliation with nationally recognized models such as 40-Developmental Assets (SEARCH Institute), Six Seconds (Emotional Intelligence), the National Network of Partnership Schools (Johns Hopkins University), and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have made him a trusted and popular source for professional and personal development guidance throughout the United States. Gary is married with four amazing adult children and six talented grandchildren.

Gary’s credentials

  • Nonprofit Executive Management Certification, University of Houston, Graduate School of Social Work, Continuing Education
  • B.S. in Behavioral Science, University of Houston Clear Lake, Texas
  • Combat Veteran, United States Army

Associations and certifications

  • National Alliances for Mental Illnesses (NAMI) State Trainer
  • Nationally Certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)Trainer
  • Texas State Certified Recovery Coach Trainer
  • Texas State Certified Community Health Worker Instructor (CHWI)
  • Regional Operation Resilient Families (ORF) Facilitator/Trainer
  • Certified Anger Resolution Therapist (CART)
  • Level I, Six Seconds Social-Emotional Intelligence Coach
  • Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets
  • Active Relationships Active Communication, Active Relationships Center
  • Family Wellness Survival Skills Trainer/Facilitator

Gary’s aha! moment

While working in Goose Creek ISD (in the late 1990s), I was involved in the implementation of the city’s first Gang Activity Prevention program (GAP) and was invited by Dr. Ruby Payne to attend a presentation on A Framework for Understanding Poverty. The materials presented provided me with a powerful connection to theory and my practice wisdom. That body of work (ever since) has been beneficial in every aspect of my personal and professional life.

Gary’s passions

I enjoy landscaping and container gardening in my spare time. I value the quiet time I get to spend at the beach on Galveston Island’s west end. My world view is broadened by spirited debate with my wife Cynthia, a licensed master school-based social work administrator. Professionally, I am energized by using a blend of motivational, experiential, and targeted instruction methodologies to convey curricula.

Gary’s best training

I absolutely love facilitating the Framework workshops! Time after time, workshop participants will wait around after the workshop is over to express their individual aha! moments. Many times they share their personal connection to the information. “Now I understand why my mother-in-law does that,” or, “I will no longer judge that behavior as undesirable,” or, the most touching of all: One school administrator said, “The work is spot on. My wife came from a middle class, intact family, and mine was the total opposite. My wife taught me the hidden rules needed to make the adjustment to middle class.”

What does Gary do for fun?

I love to dance. I love contemporary gospel, jazz, and blues music, but my most fun things to do would involve my wife, children, and especially grandchildren, spending time together at the EAGLE’s Nest, their favorite place on Galveston Island.

What are people saying about Gary?

“Gary is a calm, clear presenter who engages the participants in the learning. He answers questions, understands the frustrations, and provides for the resolution of the difficulty. His approach to the participants is one of respect and service. I recommend Gary without reservation.”

–Dr. Ruby K. Payne

“The speaker was able to communicate clearly and captured the class. He has mastery of the subject.”

“Mr. Eagleton gave a very powerful presentation today that has opened my eyes and given me a better understanding of how to approach and connect with boys.”

“Gary’s knowledge and understanding of nonprofit organizations, working with individuals from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds, and interpersonal dynamics was apparent from the beginning. I was impressed with his engaging personality, his professionalism, and, at the same time, his ability to put us at ease as we explored our concerns. His honest feedback during our debriefing session confirmed some of our observations regarding an employee. Through his recommendations, we were able to assist the employee in alleviating some of the behaviors that were affecting their work.”

“Came in not sure what to expect … leaving with a better handle on how to reach my boys!”

“I really enjoyed the workshop. As a special education teacher, it will give me additional strategies that I can use with my students.”

“You were great! You took the time to address each and every concern that emerged but at the same time provided input when you saw areas we didn’t. I had a wonderful time and feel motivated to move forward in my work and contribute to the team.”

Debora McDermed

One Page Bio

Deb currently serves as master coach and consultant to the Opportunity Alliance of Nevada. She teaches the Financial Coaching Certification Program licensed through Central New Mexico University, manages coach development, and leads projects in financial empowerment.

Additionally, Deb is a national consultant for Bridges Out of Poverty and certifies facilitators in Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World and other Bridges-related work. She trains and consults with Washoe County Human Services in Reno, Nevada, where more than 600 people have been trained in Bridges and related offerings. They are a Bridges champion site.

Deb’s passion and specialty are in the field of what fosters and sustains human change. Debora was trained in the early 1990s in the Three Principles of Human Experience, now a global program in innate well-being and resiliency. It is the foundation of all the work she currently delivers.

After more than 20 years of delivering award-winning training programs, as well as developing programs to create shifts in thinking and action, Deb now focuses on what integrates permanent and sustainable shifts in thinking and results.

Debora holds an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, is a PCC-level life coach, and was ordained as an interfaith minister/spiritual counselor in 2015.

Deb spent more than 10 years of her career with the IBM corporation, eight years with AT&T Wireless as regional director of sales and marketing, and taught at the IBM Management Development Center in Armonk, New York.

Debora lives in the western Sierras, has a wonderful husband and three terriers, and is devoted to teaching and living the Course in Miracles.

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).

Michelle Wood

One Page Bio

Who is Michelle?

Michelle was raised in generational poverty, becoming involved in the judicial system at age 10. By age 12, she was a felon. Following stays in detention centers, she was sentenced to 15 months in the Department of Youth Services (DYS), a juvenile prison. After release on parole, she began selling drugs at the age of 17. This lifestyle landed her a 3-year stay in the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and it was during this time in prison that Michelle found herself.

Upon her release, her probation officer referred her to the Getting Ahead program. While in “GA,” she met people who supported her reentry and helped her navigate through life. She was able to obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work and became increasingly involved in the community.

She currently serves as the Co-chair of the Mid-Ohio Reentry Coalition, Co-chair of the Felony Assistance team, Vice-President of Marion Matters, and sits on the Advisory Committee for Marion County Common Pleas Reentry Court Special Docket. She is employed as the Reentry Coordinator/Probation Officer for Marion County Common Pleas Court.


  • Associates of Science, Marion Technical College
  • Bachelors of Science, Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Work History

  • Program Aide, Turning Point
  • Legal Secretary/Aid, Society of Columbus
  • Reentry Coordinator/Probation Officer, Marion County Adult Probation Department


  • Getting Ahead while Getting Out (Co-author, with Philip DeVol and Mitchell Libster)

Michelle’s aha! Moment

In 2011 at my first Addressing the Challenges of Poverty Conference, I observed other Getting Ahead graduates be innovative and bring ideas to the problem solving table. “GA” helped me so much in my reentry journey that I had an aha moment, which led me to take the GA material inside a correctional institution to help those returning to society.

Michelle’s Passions

Helping returning citizens overcome barriers and have a successful reentry – the stories of perseverance keep me going.

What Michelle likes to do for fun

I enjoy spending time with my boys, including traveling the state to watch them play sports, taking vacations, camping, and boating.

Mitchell Libster

One Page Bio

Who is Mitch?

Mitch worked for over thirty years as the managing attorney for the Marion Branch of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. He retired in 2013, but still works for Legal Aid on a part-time basis. In addition to his legal work, he was involved with many community organizations, including The Boys and Girls Club of Marion. Additionally, he served on the Children Services Board of Directors, the Marion Metropolitan Housing Authority board and was appointed by the former Governor of Ohio to serve on the Board of Trustees of Marion Technical College.

When a Bridges Out of Poverty program formed in Marion, Ohio, he became active in the organization “Marion Matters.” This experience led him to facilitate numerous “Getting Ahead” classes in the Marion Community.

Marion Matters formed a Felony Assistance team to look at barriers to returning citizens from making a successful reentry. Mitch and Getting Ahead while Getting Out co-author Michelle Wood became co-chairpersons of the team. Through the team’s work, the community and employers were educated about the importance of giving citizens returning from incarceration an opportunity to obtain employment.

This led to a team meeting with the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, where ideas were discussed about bringing Getting Ahead classes into a state prisons. The Director supported the idea, which subsequently led to Michelle and Mitch facilitating three series of classes at the Reintegration Camp of the Marion Correctional Institution, a state prison located in Marion. More recently, the Marion County Adult Probation Office contracted with Michelle and Mitch to facilitate Getting Ahead classes at a Community Based Correctional Facility in Marysville, Ohio.

In addition to facilitating classes, Mitch has been appointed by the Marion County Common Pleas Court Judges to serve on the Governing Board of the West Central Community Based Correctional Facility (where he is also facilitating classes).

Mitch’s Credentials

Mitch is a 1972 graduate of the Ohio State University and graduated from Capital University Law School in 1976.

Mitch’s passions?

For over 30 years, he has devoted his working career to serving the legal needs of low income residents of Marion, Delaware, Union and Morrow Counties. For the past two years, he has spent much of his time working with returning citizens.

He lives with his wife Cindy in Marion, Ohio, and they have four children and seven grandchildren living in the Columbus area. He likes to run, play bridge, garden and travel.

Pedro Perez

One Page Bio | Video Bio | Video Bio 2

Who is Pedro Perez?

Pedro Perez is committed to social justice and equity. He helps people in poverty gain access to education, sustainable employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities, exemplifying his commitment to equity and social justice. Dedicated to helping those living in poverty, Pedro strives to ensure diversity and inclusion are priorities for every organization with which he works. He rose to the rank of brigadier general in the New York State Police and served as acting superintendent during Governor Spitzer’s and Governor Paterson’s administrations. Pedro made New York State Police history by becoming the highest-ranking Afro-Caribbean Taíno Indian. Throughout his nearly 30-year tenure with this statewide policing agency, he advocated assertively and helped actualize for greater inclusion of minority men and women within its ranks.

Pedro’s credentials

  • Co-chair of the Poverty and Economic Development Group – Capital Region Youth Justice Team (NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services)
    • Seeking equitable and systemic reform of the juvenile justice in New York State
  • Co-chair of the Albany County District Attorney’s Felony Diversion Board
    • Finding alternatives to incarceration while waiting on “raise the age” legislation
  • Master’s in Public Administration from Marist College
  • FBI-certified in Police Science and Leadership
  • Kyoshi – Seventh-degree black belt in Myo Suki Ryu Jujitsu
  • Renshi – Sixth-degree black belt instructor of American Shotokan Karate
  • Afro-Caribbean percussionist performing nationally and internationally

Work history

  • Currently serving as executive director of Charlotte Family Housing in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Project director, Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) at CARES, Albany, New York
    • Tasked with developing and implementing innovative plans to reduce poverty in Albany.
    • Responsible for identifying local stakeholders from the community, local agencies, and institutions to collaborate on the analysis and implementation of sustainable local solutions to reducing poverty by funding the most successful projects and organizations engaged in poverty reduction.
  • Executive director/consultant, My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper, City of Albany, 2015–2017
    • An initiative launched by President Obama dedicated to providing opportunities for young men and women of color to connect to educational and economic success.
    • Partnered with Albany’s Department of Youth and Workforce Services Summer Youth Employment program, providing jobs for more than 1,000 Albany teenagers aged 14–19.
  • Executive director, Capital District YMCA, Albany, 2012–2015
    • Oversaw child development program serving 900 children.
    • Helped establish Albany Promise, a cradle-to-career initiative ensuring children of color are ready to succeed in college and careers.
  • Worked for equity and parity for YMCA employees and constituents.
  • 29-year veteran of the New York State Police, 1981–2010
    • Retired as first deputy superintendent of the NYSP with the rank of brigadier general
      • First Afro-Caribbean Taíno Indian to achieve commissioned officer’s rank
      • As an investigator, handled major cases and serious felonies
      • As a sergeant, supervised state troopers
      • As a sergeant assigned to NYSP’s Affirmative Action Office:
        • Assisted with EEO complaint investigations
        • Audited the agency’s compliance with its diversity goals
        • Presented cultural sensitivity training

Pedro’s aha! moment

Pedro’s aha! moment came in 1995 when he was a major with Troop A serving an eight-county region in New York State. He received a call from a young state trooper working in another part of the state. Even though a call from a trooper to the troop commander of a different troop was outside the chain of command protocol, Pedro accepted the call. On the other end of the line, he was shocked to hear the trooper’s question. “Is this Sensei Perez?”

Fifteen years had passed since Pedro last taught the karate class at Pitt Street Boys Club, serving the poor community on New York City’s Lower East Side, but Pedro realized this was a former student. The young man went on to say he was initially saddened when Perez left the Pitt Street club to join the State Police. He was ten years old and never forgot the lessons in self-discipline and character he learned from his teacher, Sensei Perez.

The trooper on the phone went on to say that when he was in his early 20s, a recruiter visited his neighborhood to recruit minority members for the New York State Police. He remembered Sensei Perez’s move to the NYSP and thought, If it was good enough for Sensei Perez, it’s good enough for me.

The young man went on to say “You have been my role model, a great teacher. I joined the state police, and now I’m a trooper in eastern New York State.” At that moment, Pedro realized he had had a positive impact on one person’s life that resulted in their move out of poverty.

How often do we hear we have changed the life of a young person? Pedro received an unexpected gift from this young man who confirmed Pedro had a positive influence on his life. This aha! moment is one of many stories demonstrating Pedro’s dedication to educating the community and lessening the hopelessness of those living in poverty—one life at a time.

Pedro’s passion

Pedro is passionately dedicated to helping those living in poverty reconnect to educational and economic success, with a focus on people of color. He believes the struggle for our full participation in the American Dream must be sought for each of us if we are ever to be treated with the dignity and respect that is our birthright.

What does Pedro do for fun?

Pedro is a Kyoshi seventh-degree black belt in Myo Suki Ryu Jujitsu and Renshi sixth-degree black belt instructor of karate. He is an Afro-Caribbean master conguero (conga drummer) who performs in the capital region of New York, nationally, and internationally with his own Mambo Dragons band, as well as several other musical groups. Also, he enjoys playing chess ineptly with some of his colleagues.

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.”

Regina Lewis

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Regina?

Dr. Regina Lewis leads and has alliances with worldwide organizations and specializes in leadership development and organizational communication. With clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofit agencies to educational institutions, Dr. Lewis’ proven specialties are leadership, professional excellence, culture inclusion, coaching, poverty comprehensive training, strategic development, and executive public speaking coaching.



  • Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership, Research, and Policy, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • Master of Arts in Communication, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • Bachelors of Arts in Communication and Psychology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


  • College Achievement Alliance
  • Bridges Out of Poverty
  • CCL NCO 360
  • Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i)

Highlights of academic leadership qualifications

  • Executive Feedback Coach for The Center for Creative Leadership
  • Department Chair of Communication, Pikes Peak Community College
  • Director of The Women’s Forum, Pikes Peak Community College
  • Communication Faculty, Pikes Peak Community College
  • Student Academic Advisor, Pikes Peak Community College
  • Workshop Consultant for TeamUp/Cengage Publishing
  • National Speaker, Bridges Out of Poverty and College Achievement Alliance


  • Raising a prince on food stamps: Reaching your private and professional goals through resiliency,Blue River Publishing, 2014
  • ReVeal: Your action guidebook for culture inclusion,Blue River Publishing, 2013
  • Preparing future school leaders: How can it be accomplished online, ProActive Publications, 2009
  • Focus on community college success (consulting editor), Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009
  • “The emancipation proclamation: Communicate to motivate,” 2006, Black History Bulletin, 69(2), 15–20

Regina’s aha! moment

Being a consultant and having a passion for Ruby Payne’s work is a direct connection to my life’s story. I worked my way through poverty as a single parent and a first-generation student. As a result of knowing and understanding the hidden rules and behaviors of middle class, academic institutions, and the professional world, I am now educating others, and I have successfully raised my son, who currently is a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy.

Regina’s Passion

“I grab my audience’s attention and hold it long after they have left.”

I am at my best when I am speaking. Whether I am doing a keynote, training, coaching, or teaching, I give my all. My goal in presenting is to inspire my audience, providing tools and skill for immediate action, and to spark the genius of students.

Regina’s best training

Although many come to me during breaks and after training sessions sharing their stories, shaking my hand, and giving me wonderful hugs, it is the aftereffect that has the greatest and most rewarding impact on me. I am humbled when I receive emails and phone calls telling me how I have recharged, empowered, and reengaged their purpose.

Messages like this are the most gratifying:

“I was in the training you facilitated today in Santa Ana, and I just wanted to tell you how rewarding your presentation was. You are such an amazing speaker; I felt inspired and motivated to continue pursuit of my career goals. Your presentation was so humbling, as a Christian I believe I was meant to hear your message today.”

What does Regina do for fun?

It seems to me that I live in the culture of competition, constantly challenging myself to new goals and levels (in a healthy way). All of the goals I set for myself demand discipline, passion, and having confidence in myself. My latest venture has been training and competing in my first body-fitness competition. I competed in the Colorado Natural GNC Figure Competition … and by the way, I placed first and second in my class. When I am not competing, I love going to the movies, spending time with family, and of course, shoe shopping.

What are people saying about Regina?

“Dr. Regina Lewis is an exceptional motivational speaker. Her presentation and stories will inspire a diverse audience and will cause positive change.”

“The audience was not disappointed as Regina proved to be an engaging, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional speaker. Although she received this assignment at the last minute, she was thoroughly prepared and flexible with our conference schedule. “

“Regina has significantly improved the way USA Swimming looks at inclusion.”

“If you ever have the privilege of working with Regina, you will immediately notice she tempers a deep passion with a special reality and then adds an extremely educated and practical point of view.”

“Many can teach and motivate, but few can give you the tools and plan to make a difference—that’s Dr. Lewis.”

“Dr. Regina Lewis has motivated, inspired, and challenged countless freshmen who see in her a role model, an example of what they can accomplish if they work hard.”

“She is a gifted speaker with a gripping message, and the combination helps the freshmen find their place. Of all the speakers we have invited to class, Dr. Regina Lewis is the one they value the most.”

“Dr. Lewis is an outstanding advocate for those in poverty and is an amazing speaker.”

“Regina brings the muscle to her life and her work. She inspires with her motivational words, mentors public speakers of all abilities, and makes us think about culture in ways never considered. Spend five minutes with her, and you will walk away smarter and happier. I guarantee it.”

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!

Sonia Holycross

One Page Bio

Who is Sonia Holycross?

Sonia Holycross is the family development and education coordinator for Partners in Hope, a 25-year-old faith-based community services organization in Troy, Ohio. She engages clients in the areas of education and development with a focus on supporting families as they move from crisis-based living into a stable and secure lifestyle. A Getting Ahead graduate herself, Sonia contributed to the book Workplace Stability and to the latest edition of Getting Ahead.

Sonia’s credentials


  • Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management, Bluffton University
  • Associate’s Degree in Social Work, Edison Community College

Work history

Sonia has facilitated and participated in city, state, and national initiatives, including building capacity for Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, poverty simulations, motivational speaking on Getting Ahead, Bridges Out of Poverty events, and trainings aimed at bringing awareness on the issues of poverty. Sonia has also had success as the co-emcee of the Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference.

Additional certified trainings

  • Bridges Out of Poverty
  • Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By-World

Sonia’s aha! moment

After serving two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Partners in Hope, Sonia transitioned into a full-time staff position. She uses her personal story and experiences to help lift others up.

Sonia’s passion?

Building the resources people need to get ahead has become Sonia’s passion. As a professional woman breaking the cycle of generational poverty, Sonia has developed relationships that cross economic and racial boundaries, allowing her to be a driving force for systemic change in her community. Still living in the same neighborhood, Sonia challenges and gives hope to those around her while inspiring them to use their voices about their individual barriers to poverty. “I believe that every under-resourced individual deserves a chance to experience Getting Ahead. Everyone deserves to believe they have a future that can be different from today!”

Sonia’s best training

Tapping into her experience from Getting Ahead, Sonia is very proud to have created and implemented Staying Ahead in Troy. Staying Ahead is a long-term development program meant to reinforce Getting Ahead.

What does Sonia do for fun?

As a single parent to five beautiful girls, Sonia has worked hard to challenge the boundaries of generational poverty patterns for herself and her children. She has committed her life to assisting others in recognizing that they do have a choice and can be successful.

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!”

Terie Dreussi-Smith

One Page Bio | Video Bio

Who is Terie?

Terie Dreussi-Smith, M.A.Ed. has been an author/consultant with aha! Process since 1997 and is experienced in bringing diverse audiences to new understandings and paradigms with practical knowledge, humor, and sincerity. She presents an average of 70 days per year. Terie has years of both direct and midlevel management experience working with youth and adults in poverty. Her areas of expertise are health and wellness initiatives, K–12 education, higher education, alcohol and other drug prevention, community youth development, and community wellness. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina.

Terie presents

  • Bridges Out of Poverty
  • A Framework for Understanding Poverty
  • Bridges Into Health
  • Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students
  • Hidden Rules of Class at Work
  • Getting Ahead Facilitation

Terie’s credentials


  • Master of Arts in Education, College of Mt. St. Joseph
  • Bachelor of Music, Kent State University

Work history

  • Music Educator
  • Adjunct Faculty
  • Supervisor of Prevention, Community Youth Development, Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention/Wellness Initiatives
  • Grant Writer/Program Consultant


  • Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities (Co-author)
  • Bridges to Health and Healthcare (Co-author)

Terie’s aha! moment

For me, most memorable insights happened years ago in my community work brought on by our first encounter with Ruby Payne’s work. We looked at the same people, situations, and partnerships with brand new eyes, working together to design some pretty creative multi-systems programming for youth and families. It gave us “blue ocean” thinking—of course, we had no idea what that was at the time! We engaged youth and parents in poverty in new relationships at every level. All of this prepared us for writing Bridges Out of Poverty.

What motivates Terie?

The best part of this work is meeting the participants, engaging the audience, and unfolding the Bridges lens and strategies. What keeps all of us interested is how different individuals, organizations, and communities use the Bridges concepts in great and innovative approaches. It’s inspiring! The goal that motivates me is to work together reducing poverty, building social cohesion between economic classes, and creating a healthy and sustainable community. Who gets to do this as their day job? It is wonderful work!

Terie’s best training

Even though she has been presenting for more than 15 years, Terie looks forward to every event. She originally developed the Bridges Into Health workshop for aha! Process and has led the Health Sector Community of Practice, interacting with health professionals throughout the country who use Bridges in both public health and healthcare settings. Working with the health sector has brought fresh ideas and strategies to the Bridges Out of Poverty Community of Practice.

Terie says, “It is remarkable how fresh and vibrant this work remains. This is partly because of the big thinking of our aha! Process team, but mostly because of the unique insights of every individual and audience I am privileged to meet. My energy for this work increases with every year because of the growth of new ideas and applications. The only time it feels at all like ‘work’ is when I experience a missed flight connection. But the frequent complimentary upgrades to first class seem to make up for it!”

What does Terie do for fun?

Author/Writer, Public Speaker, Bicycle Rider, Hiker, Friend Seeker, Friend Keeper, Kayak Sailor, Devoted Sister and Friend, Aunt Extraordinaire, Ballroom Dancer, Vocalist, Family Archive Detective, Murder Mystery Lover, Honest Work in Progress, Favorite Actor: Robert Downey Jr., First-Generation American, Jazz Lover, Sane and Tolerant Vegetarian, Yankee Attitude with a Touch of Southern Charm.

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.

Kristie Place

Nyima Porter