I would definitely not be the woman and mother I am today if Bridges Out of Poverty hadn’t been introduced to me! I have grown so much as an individual by just learning new tools and having a support system of all these amazing role models. I am so grateful for this amazing Getting Ahead process and model!
If you don’t know, Bridges Out of Poverty is a set of constructs and strategies that looks at poverty through the lens of economic class. Getting Ahead takes those same core constructs and allows individuals living in poverty to investigate poverty in their lives and communities and decide for themselves what changes they would like to make to stabilize.
My life before Bridges was so lonely. I was raised in generational poverty along with my brothers and sister. We were all placed into foster care at a young age because my mother and father were both drug addicts. After being sexually, physically, and mentally abused for many years, I started to act out in many ways, which only resulted in consequences for myself!
In 2010, when I was 21 years old, I believe I had my first “aha moment.” I went to a party with some friends, and one of my friends never made it back home. She was shot in the head that night during an altercation. This night forever changed my life, and it helped me to see that I was living life all wrong! It was a very traumatic day in my life, but definitely the “aha” I needed! Soon after, I found out I would be having a son. He is my EVERYTHING!
Chanelle and her son, Reece, canoeing in Starker Lake. Chanelle says Reece ‘is 7 years old and every reason I breathe!’
While having my own son helped me to have some drive in life, I still had nobody in my corner backing me up, nobody to go to for advice and love. This is where my life has improved the most! I never knew how important it was to have social capital, but it has definitely changed my life. When I graduated my Getting Ahead process, I had a new understanding of life. I was able to see what resources I was lacking, and I had the support I had always wanted and needed to get ahead.
Because of Building Bridges, I am now a Building Bridges associate with The Corners at West Burlington High School. I work with kids who are just like I was: misunderstood! I also now have the understanding and knowledge of the hidden rules, which makes me blend into all economic classes. My biggest struggle was my spiritual resource, but it’s coming along now that I have my Staying Ahead partner and a huge network of support from amazing people! Being a part of Bridges out of Poverty has been one of the greatest blessings in my life (besides my son)! Thank you to Mona, Vern Reed, Mr. DeVol, and Mrs. Ruby for helping me learn that “we are more alike than we are different!”
Chanelle Nichols is a member of the Southeast Iowa Bridges initiative, a Getting Ahead graduate, and a Bridges Out of Poverty advocate.