In Maryland, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and the Department of Citizen Services honored Getting Ahead program graduates and supporters at the first annual Getting Ahead Awards Gala held on Friday, May 20, at the North Laurel Community Center. The awards gala was created by the Getting Ahead graduate committee as a way to recognize graduates for their positive impact on the community, as well as organizations that have supported the Getting Ahead program and its participants.

Getting Ahead groups in Howard County are an outgrowth of the Bridges Out of Poverty initiative of the Howard County Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency. A two-part model designed to change the culture of poverty in a community, Bridges Out of Poverty provides a framework for service providers to examine how they view and treat those in poverty, while Getting Ahead groups enable people in poverty to investigate the effects of poverty on their personal resources and what it takes to improve those resources.

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The eight-week Getting Ahead program helps people in poverty learn about resources and strategies to gain stability. Since September 2013, more than 160 people have graduated from Getting Ahead. The first annual Getting Ahead Award winners included:

Making It Happen Award: Sunshine Walker

Sunshine Walker has become an advocate in her community for those in need, specifically homeless women and children. Having started her own business, Sunshine now conducts workshops in the community to help others interested in opening a business. She has also sponsored toy drives to assist families in need during the holidays.

Outstanding Volunteer Award: Nora Woods

Since her graduation from Getting Ahead, Nora Woods has continued to volunteer her time and efforts to support other graduates. She is a frequent guest speaker at Getting Ahead graduations and community events, sharing her story to give hope to others. Nora also volunteers on the board of the Getting Ahead graduate committee and serves as a mentor to other Getting Ahead graduates.

Kendra-Ware-GA-Howard CountyReaching Back Award: Kendra Ware

Getting Ahead graduate Kendra Ware mentors other single moms at Howard Community College and in the community to share what she has learned. Kendra helps women understand that there are resources in the community available to them and has contacted agencies on their behalf for assistance. She continues to market the Getting Ahead program throughout the community and supports the initiative at events. Last month alone Kendra referred three women to Getting Ahead while also helping them locate other resources.

Legacy Award: Lisa Jablonover

Lisa Jablonover is a community advocate who volunteers on many boards, including the Howard County Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency, which promotes the economic stability of individuals and families and strives to reduce the incidence of poverty in Howard County. Lisa was instrumental in introducing Howard County to the Bridges Out Poverty framework and Getting Ahead. To date Getting Ahead has assisted more than 160 individuals who have graduated from the program.

Community Support Award: Making Change Financial Wellness Program, Howard Community College Career Links, and Success in Style

Making Change Financial Wellness Program, Howard Community College Career Links, and Success in Style each received a community support award for their commitment, dedication, and support of the Getting Ahead program. The vital support offered to Getting Ahead participants included facilitating workshops, providing free business attire for graduation, and mentoring Getting Ahead graduates.

Press release provided by the Howard County Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency.