Bridges Summit County recently finished its first field test of Dr. Ruby Payne’s “How Much of Yourself Do You Own?” curriculum, exploring how to build emotional resources. Throughout the countywide collaborative, four Getting Ahead sites served as pilot sites, including OPEN M, a faith-based community agency providing support services and a free clinic. Seven recent Getting Ahead graduates stayed on at OPEN M to complete the field test, finishing in mid-October 2013.

“The emotional piece was exactly what was needed to add more depth to the Getting Ahead. I believe that it helps support the theory of change, as we are trying to learn how to think and act in the abstract. It was also very gratifying to see the transformation take place within the group, as well as individually, as participants each searched for a way to get rid of ‘emotional trash.’ We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we do have a great starting point and can now find a way to begin the healing process and let some things go that have us so bogged down emotionally,” said Boykin.

The facilitator was not alone expressing satisfaction with the experience. Many graduates had a lot to say as well. One graduate said:

“I have never cried so much during a group interaction. I didn’t realize that I was carrying so much emotional garbage around with me until I went through this material. When I say I cried a lot, I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. I guess I can say it was a ‘good’ cry, as I came to understand what I needed to now do to invest in myself emotionally.”

Men and women alike sat around a table, continuing to build relationships and explore the emotional baggage that has kept them from getting ahead. Here is what a male participant shared:

“As a young man, I never really thought or talked about emotions with anyone. Although I am still young, I realize that I, too, am carrying around things from my past that hinder me from my future success. I am so glad to have been a part of this emotional piece because it mainly showed me that all of us—not just women—are carrying around emotional trash. Speaking to the male population, it is OK to cry and try and process your feelings. The main thing that I got from this is that I will no longer try to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I will always take my emotional trash out on trash day.”

Other sites throughout the community are using the work. Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority is in the midst of their first class, and Harvest Home Shelter for Women and Children has run two classes already. The Job Center (a Workforce Investment Act career center serving Summit and Medina Counties) has begun recruiting for their classes and look forward to the same deep and open discussion that we have already seen with this new curriculum.

If you’d like more information on the curriculum, or would like an email notifying you when it is published, please send an email to us at


By Cory St. Esprit, Community Impact, United Way of Summit County; and Montoya Boykin, Family Development Specialist, OPEN M