With two mentors for every participant in the first graduating class of Peoria’s Coming Together to Get Ahead program, building social capital with people outside poverty was relatively assured. As a bonus, the six women who made up the group started out as “crybabies at first” said one, but they eventually came to describe themselves as “a sisterhood.”

The Society for St. Vincent de Paul, the main organizer of the program, used to help people in poverty just to get by. But the assistance they provided with strictly monetary needs didn’t keep people from coming back with the same problem the next month. The Coming Together to Get Ahead program is centered on Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World in order to help people make the transition out of poverty rather than helping them merely get by while staying in it.

The graduating class consisted of six, but seven people started the program. The reason for the dropout? An offer of full-time work that came before the program’s completion (and, unfortunately, conflicted with its meeting time). Another participant has started a debt consolidation process with a local credit union, and a third jokes that she’s learned “not to spend all her money at Walmart.”

Click here to read this engaging profile of Peoria’s first round of Getting Ahead graduates in The Peoria Journal Star.