Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty is addressing generational poverty by investing in the children of Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World participants. This program has helped more than 800 children increase their grades and confidence since 2011. Funded by a local foundation grant, Muskogee Bridges has been an innovator when it comes to growing our Bridges initiative.

It starts with our paid childcare workers testing the children to see what grade level they are at in grammar and math at the beginning of a Getting Ahead group’s work. We learned about the Khan Academy by reading The One World School House by Salman Khan. Khan Academy is a free, online global classroom in the form of YouTube videos with quizzes to ensure comprehension of the concept. Every Tuesday night during Getting Ahead sessions, our childcare workers help the kids with their homework and give prizes for achievements in Khan Academy. By the end of the semester (approximately 18 weeks), every second- to ninth-grader has increased their grade level by at least two grades in grammar and math and improved their report card grades tremendously.

Two years ago, Nakita (front row, second from the left) was an eighth-grader failing all of her classes when she started with us in January. By May, Nakita brought all her grades up to A’s and made the honor roll for the first time. Her teacher called our office and asked what we were doing. We mentioned that Khan Academy is free, and teachers can use it in their classrooms. Nakita’s mom is so proud of her.

Shamonte is a third-grader who started out at the second-grade level in math and grammar and is now working at the fourth-grade level in both. He also mastered a college-level lesson in finance, capital markets, and mortgages. He took the quiz and passed it, and I noticed him asking adults in the program if they rent or own their homes. I asked him why he was so interested in learning about housing, and he replied, “Because I want to move. My house has cockroaches.” After hearing this story, our former mayor, John Tyler Hammons (who was elected at age 19), came to our graduation ceremony to surprise Shamonte with a book on finance and shake his hand.

The Getting Ahead graduates are so thankful for the free educational assistance their children receive, and it’s awesome to watch both children and adults be celebrated at graduation for their hard work. Most importantly, this puts both generations on a parallel track moving forward toward the ultimate goal, stability.

Children in impoverished families tend to suffer lasting consequences full on into their adult lives. They grow up with weaker skills and less education, which equals fewer opportunities. We hope these efforts set the children on a trajectory of lifelong learning and they experience a better chance of owning their own homes, landing a good job, and contributing to society in a positive way.