The following is from Delan Fulgham, until recently a financial/life navigator at Community Credit Union in Lewiston, Maine.

This is the first cohort we had at Community Credit Union in Lewiston, Maine, and it was so inspiring, motivating, and impactful. We started this journey last fall with getting myself certified to offer this program with the expectation that I would be providing resources to help change the lives of people in our community, which did happen, but it was so much more in those 16 weeks that changed my life as well. Below are the stories of two participants in our Getting Ahead program.

Hawa “Eve” Ali

My name is Eve, and back in the beginning of 2023, I challenged myself to do more for the community. I took it upon myself to acquire knowledge in order to serve everyone better. In January, I passed the test to obtain my real estate license, and I was happy to start helping my community, as there is a lack of representation in the real estate market. As I was getting ready to contact people in my network, I had the realization that every client that I was meeting with was barely qualifying, which was leaving them in a category that they had little to no chance to make it in this market that we are in.

With this information, I decided to start a nonprofit organization to provide free informational and educational resources to pass the knowledge to the community at large. In my search to find information, I stumbled upon the Getting Ahead program, which was discussed in a parenting program I was attending. Knowing the challenges that my community was having, I challenged myself to attend the program with a lens of understanding and to identify how to pass this information on. With my learning, I wanted to challenge myself to bring it to the next level in the community, and I partnered with Delan to become a Getting Ahead facilitator. With this knowledge from the program, I am able to be the bridge to help my community with resources and financial literacy. This program has taught me a better understanding of finances and to visualize a strategic plan to achieve realistic goals with a mindset that “nothing is impossible.”

I feel fortunate to be equipped with these tools and knowledge that are helping my family and helping my husband and I set our kids up for success! One thing that I really enjoyed in the Getting Ahead program was mental models, and my future mental model evolves around one word, and that word is success. Now, I have got to tell you that it’s easier said than done. We have to keep a right mindset in order to achieve success, and we have to accept every step as a milestone towards the big plan of success. I look forward to bringing this knowledge to our communities to help them embark on this journey to help them realize their own success.

Will Bunnell

My name is Will Bunnell, and I want to paint a picture of my background so you can get an understanding of what I have been through. I had a rough upbringing from an unstable family life, overcame drugs, and was in and out of incarceration, and my image gets immediately judged. When I started this program, I worked when I could/needed to, I was a full-time father to my son with no childcare or car, and I lacked a support team.

I came across this program while working with my case manager, and I am a person that likes to learn new things to gain as much knowledge as possible. I have been taking advantage of any group or training that works with my schedule and that is able to help me. The goal is to expose my son to positive people and for me to be as active as I can with him to give him a better life than me.

Through this program, I have gained a clear set of goals that are attainable for me to be the best person I can be for my son and me. I am going to be starting Portland Recovery training shortly, with goals to be a life coach. I have met some amazing connections, such as Strengthen LA, to help me obtain a career that will help me get an apartment, get my son into daycare, learn to drive, and to do more with and in my community. I am an energetic and driven individual who loves setting goals for everything; the busier I am the better off I am, and I am going to utilize the tools that I learned through this program to get ahead.

Community Credit Union in Lewiston, Maine, is the sponsoring agency for the Getting Ahead classes.  The Credit Union is also a key member of the Bridges Steering Committee in Lewiston, Maine.

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.