The following is from Jennifer Daly, a Burlington Building Bridges Getting Ahead graduate.

I came to meet Miss Mona [Mona Ash, program director of Burlington Building Bridges in Burlington, Iowa] in August. I was a broken and defeated little girl in a sense. I was unable to speak a word without tears streaming down my face. That same girl started class. I was scared to open up to a room full of strangers. I began to see that we’re more alike than we are different. That’s when things started to make sense.

By being in this [Getting Ahead] class, I have learned that there are good people in this world. That healthy relationships exist. That becoming a successful member of my community is possible. That setting boundaries works. That happiness comes from within. That my past does not define my future. That love doesn’t hurt. That I am worthy and deserving of all of these things. That I always have been. That I had to lose everything and everyone in my life I’ve ever loved to find myself in order to be able to receive these truths.

Since starting this class, my life has changed dramatically. I never realized that poverty was so much more than just being financiallypoor. A few of the vital 11 resources that promote healthy, functional lives are emotional, mental, and spiritual. Needless to say, I lacked all 11. Looking back, if I would’ve known then what I know now, life may not have been so hard.

My bank account may be barely in the black, but I am richer than I have ever been in my life.

To my fellow graduates: We have all had our fair share of the good, the bad, and the ugly in our lives. Let’s teach our children what we’ve learned so that they may thrive. Let’s remember the bonds we have built with love, laughter, and tears. Let us never forget to utilize our resources to prevent slips and falls in the wrong direction. We need to continue to build each other up. We are better together!

Burlington, Iowa, is home to a thriving Bridges Out of Poverty community that has trained more than 3,000 people in Bridges constructs. The backbone organization, Burlington Building Bridges, also organizes Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World courses and has achieved an 88% graduation rate.

 The aha! Process Getting Ahead program engages investigators (participants) in exploring the realities of poverty in their communities and how those realities impact them. They also explore the causes of poverty, the “hidden rules” of economic class, and ways to develop resources and build stable lives. Getting Ahead graduates build relationships across class lines and often join the decision-making tables in their communities.