From time to time we receive questions from clients.  One such client, Tammy Schoonover, presented us with the following questions and comments about the Getting Ahead Network.  Please read her question and Phil DeVol’s response.  We’d love to hear your feedback.

     The Bucks County Opportunity Council is definitely going through a paradigm shift. Our involvement with CirclesTM and instituting the Getting Ahead material into our Economic Self-Sufficiency Program shifts our paradigm into new and exciting directions. Presenting the Bridges Out of Poverty material across Bucks County is part of this shift. Our goal is to “spread the word” about poverty, creating a better understanding and common language so that we all can communicate better and design effective programs across the county.

     The fruits of our labor was recently captured in a newspaper article entitled, “A Feeling of Warmth.” One of our Economic Self-Sufficeincy clients who also completed the Getting Ahead workshops was interviewed. The reporter was highlighting the high cost of heating your home and the Council’s Weatherization Program. When the client was asked about her fuel bills, she was quoted saying, “The people that the Opportunity Council works with are families who are struggling. It’s situational poverty,”…”I think a lot of people think that people living below the poverty level are lazy people who, if they would work more, wouldn’t be in that situation. That’s just not the case. Everyone I’ve met through the Council’s programs is someone who is struggling to get back on their feet. They’ve been displaced; they’re getting training for new careers. They don’t want to be in this position. They’re not looking for a hand out; they’re just looking for a hand up.”
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I read this article. It affirmed for me that what the clients experience and learn in the Getting Ahead workshops is invaluable. The fact that the client identified poverty as “situational.” was astounding. I have my MSW and never defined or understood poverty as “generational or situational.” Knowledge is being gained and staff and clients are relaying this knowledge to the public at large. She also noted that poverty is not just the result of the “behaviors of the individual” – speaking to the four areas of research. And, best of all, the client articulated her voice/opinions/learning in formal register!!! This is the best newspaper article we have ever had!
I do have a question or thought – since we are running the Circles initiative, having the community meetings, etc., I have been thinking hard about the children of the families who are participating. What can we do for them that is meaningful instead of just providing child care? I was wondering if any work has been done on a Bridges cirriculum for children – a way to share some of the Bridges concepts in simple ways that children could understand. Has anyone considered this? Though I am not a teacher and certainly do not have knowledge about cirriculum design, I believe it may be possible to design something that kids could benefit from as well. I want a way to get this information to the whole family; I believe it can be transformational.
Just some thoughts……

Tammy Schoonover 


Phil DeVol’s response: 


Your question about how to share Getting Ahead and Circles information with children is going to generate a lot of ideas and suggestions from other Getting Ahead and Circle sites, I’m sure. 

The Getting Ahead organizers in the Menominee Nation (Wisconsin) do simple learning tasks and exercises about the topics under investigation by their parents in Getting Ahead.  There isn’t a perfect match for every module, but there is enough in common to give parents and their children something to talk about.  For example, resources and hidden rules would be fairly easy to turn into learning activities.  The GA facilitators at the YMCA in Toledo, Ohio have adapted the registers of language for young people in an amusing way.

The good news is that Betti Souther’s workbook for young people will be available soon.  The “R” Rules: Increase awareness, access, and readiness for middle and high school students.To quote the facilitator notes, “R Rules shows you how to:

  • Identify, expand and use personal and community resources

  • Build skills for making choices and problem solving

  • Present the mind as a weapon, a tool, and the ultimate resource

  • Help kids see patterns, predict outcomes, and plan for success

  • Create a learning process that guides young people to the best possible choices

 Betti gives young people access to the same information that adults find in Getting Ahead.

Thanks for the news from Bucks County and for the good work you do there.

-Phil DeVol