I have hope now. —Norman Wheeler, Getting Ahead graduate

After five weeks of attending Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World (Getting Ahead), Getting Ahead graduate (at that time, a participant) Norman Wheeler said that Getting Ahead classes were giving him hope, something that had been missing in his life for a long time. When he lost his job, Norman started drinking too much to kill the pain of not providing for his family. From the job loss and the apartment complex they lived in being sold, they became homeless due to a lack of savings.

The night they were to sleep in their car, Children 1st was able to offer them temporary housing through a generous donor. In addition, 30 days later, Children 1st was able to help the family get their car back from repossession and facilitate Norman working with an attorney to resolve a legal issue that was preventing him from working. In a stable environment, Norman was able to complete Getting Ahead.

As work is based upon middle class values, Norman was able to learn about the significance of employment that no one had ever explained to him. He learned about hidden rules like being on time to work each day, how to speak to a supervisor, calling in when sick, and more. He also learned how credit works, which increased his knowledge of financial management and resources.

The week after graduating from Getting Ahead, Norman started a job with a Wichita major manufacturer that started at $19.50 per hour. Norman has moved his family out of poverty and into middle class!“I want to be successful at work, and I have never felt that way before about an employer,” said Norman. “I want a 401K, dental insurance, and more.” Norman recently passed his blueprint exam and is moving on to sheet metal classes.

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The aha! Process Getting Ahead program empowers participants, who work with peers and a facilitator, in a process of self-discovery. On the Getting Ahead journey, participants learn what led to their current situation, and they envision the kind of life they want to build. Relationships are central to this process.

Children First: CEO Kansas Inc. is a Wichita-based social service nonprofit that supports students by helping them stay in school. The organization helps students and their families in seven low-income neighborhoods in Wichita. Support comes from social workers, case managers, therapists, and STEM educational opportunities.