Here are the speeches from our recent Getting Ahead graduation ceremony. The ceremony honored the 32nd English-language Getting Ahead group and the 16th Hacia Adelante en un Mundo en que Solo Se Sobrevive group, which is Getting Ahead in Spanish.

Francisca Martinez Suchil read the Spanish-language group’s speech at graduation. Pictured with her are facilitators Soledad Morales and Zoila Arteaga, who also appear in the group photo.

Hacia Adelante Class 16, Muskogee, Oklahoma, graduation speech

My first words are to thank Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty, and especially Yesenia Ochoa, for giving me the opportunity to take this course. I want to share with you the experiences that people like me have had when we came to live in the United States.

The pain of having to leave our country, our family, our friends, and our traditions behind is compounded by the fear of reaching an unknown place. Being so far from our place of origin fills our hearts with nostalgia and sadness.

It is very difficult to integrate into a new world; for us Hispanics, language is the first and main barrier that prevents us from getting closer, but it is not the only barrier.

We face other limitations that are difficult to overcome, such as finding a place to live, obtaining a job, being able to enter a school to study English, going to the doctor, and simply finding other people with whom we can live and talk about our situation.

In many moments we come to feel powerless and defeated by all the deficiencies that we have; on many occasions we lose faith and hope to start a life.

Precisely at this moment that we felt that there was no longer hope, we were fortunate to find Getting Ahead in our path, forming a large group of people to integrate into the Muskogee community.

Thanks to your generosity, my colleagues and I have been able to successfully integrate into the community and feel we are part of the city and are valuable people who can serve others.

Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty has helped us overcome those walls and build the bridges to overcome the barriers that prevented us from being part of you and the community.

Thanks to the Getting Ahead class, we now have the capability and abilities to develop our full potential and achieve our dreams.

Some of us have already started attending school, others already have a job, and step by step we move toward a continuous process of improvement.

Thank you to all who made it possible for me to have been given the opportunity to be part of this great group.

God bless this program.

Michaela DeShazer read the speech for the English-language group. Facilitators Linda Ingram and Megan Green are included in the group photo.

Getting Ahead Class 32, Muskogee, Oklahoma, graduation speech 

Life as a single mom is not the easiest, but yet it is the most normal situation we tend to find ourselves in. We are taught that a single mother in poverty has no choice but to struggle, sacrifice, and live in survival mode. We learn that to feed your kids you need to be on government assistance. We are taught that this is the easiest way to make do, but we are never told it’s the hardest to part from. We always struggle with feeling like we are not good enough, thereby giving ourselves the excuse to not even apply ourselves to our full potential. It doesn’t have to be this way; just because we’re in poverty, that doesn’t make us unworthy of a better life.

We came into this class thinking we would learn about budgeting. We thought we were stuck in our situations alone, but then we saw other people with the same issues. Together we learned there is a way out. We now have the confidence, mindset, and resources to build better lives for our kids. We will take from this class new ways of doing things, a sisterhood that will never be broken, and a support team that will guide us as we make better life choices.

Getting Ahead showed us that we can work on and be a part of community projects, meet new people, eliminate social services, better our parenting skills, and effectively change our emotional responses to stressful situations.

We are resilient. We are capable. We are powerful.

Getting Ahead gave us the tools to walk through doors we didn’t think we deserved to walk through.