When the advisory board of Getting Ahead in Cedar Valley secured funding for their pilot program, members George Karnik, Carole Freking, and Tom Marrah didn’t think they would need a waiting list. The nine-week offering of Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World has been so effective, though, that there is now a list of people waiting to participate in the next round.

Empowerment has been a key theme in the pilot program. “Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice,” said participant Rachel Oddoye. “My goal is to get from asking for help to giving help as much as I can.”


Other participants in the pilot program spoke of Getting Ahead’s life-changing character as well. Avery Norman says that he would have failed to dispute an eviction and would be homeless now without the skills and strategies he learned in Getting Ahead. “I can breathe. I can stand up. Before I’d let them run me over,” he says.

The group meets twice a week, and volunteers provide a meal and childcare when possible. In a total of 45 hours, the group works to build hope, motivation, and overturn the idea that people in poverty aren’t working to improve their circumstances. Each person is looking to build bridges out of poverty, and as a group, Getting Ahead in Cedar Valley is doing just that. “It turns into one big family,” says Norman. “Nobody feels like they’re better than anybody else. We’ve still got work to do, but now we’ve got weapons too.”

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