Mothers in Houston’s South Park community complete Getting Ahead and begin plans to improve their community.

Thirteen women living in the South Park community of Houston, Texas, completed the 16-week Getting Ahead course. All of the women in the group are residents of Sunflower Terrace Apartments or the area surrounding it, an area where violence and gang activity are common occurrences. These mothers volunteered to be a part of an amazing adventure, an undertaking many of their neighbors were unwilling to embark upon. It is because of their willingness to step into the unknown that the possibilities for them are now endless.

ga-in-houston-3I began this journey with them as a facilitator along with Ruben Perez. It was clear, however, that by the end of the course, the course of my life had been changed as well as theirs. Knowledge of a world beyond the one you live in has that effect on a person. We listened to their accounts of predatory lending practices, drive-by shootings, and gang initiations on the playgrounds. Liquor stores aplenty, but no place within walking distance to buy groceries, kids cooped up in an apartment all day because of neighborhood violence. Despite what they faced daily, they showed up each week ready to do the work. They all chimed in after the first meeting, “We love this class!” and “I’ll definitely be back next week!”

We bonded with these women over the three months of the course, and it was an honor to help them celebrate their accomplishment. There was a sensation in the room that was almost tangible as they spoke passionately of the friendships they had made and of the plans they have for themselves, their children, and their community. As I stood along the wall, trying to keep my emotions at bay, I could see that these were not the same women we had just recruited in the spring. These women were now braver, stronger, full of hope, and armed with knowledge no one could take from them. Congratulations Octavia, Annie, Jocelyn, Brittany, Quinita, Barbara, Wanda, Debra, Kathy, Eden, Catrina, Raven, and Tonya! Although they are now graduates, we will always be investigators. Together we will continue seeking out ways to learn from each other, getting ahead and no longer just getting by.