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Bridges to Prosperity opening new class at Jeannette Salvation Army

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Margie Stanislaw | The Jeannette Spirit
Diana Gray, left, and Clarence Garland, right, discuss the Getting Ahead Class with Salvation Army Major Kathleen Waddell, center. The Salvation Army provides space for the Bridges to Prosperity initiative because both organizations assist people in poverty.

Bridges to Prosperity, formerly known as the Jeannette Circles Initiative, will start a new 17-week course today called “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin' by World.”

The class is held at the Jeannette Salvation Army at 1100 Clay Ave. Ext., from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays, with a light lunch and child care provided for children ages 4 and older.

The curriculum was written and developed by Philip E. DeVol of Ohio and published by Aha!Process. Aha!Process is the publisher of “Bridges out of Poverty,” which was coauthored by DeVol and Dr. Ruby Payne.

According to the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Payne's work and that of aha!Process, of which she and DeVol are founders, “helps educators and service providers to better understand the hidden rules of poverty, thereby building capacity for effective action.”

The Getting Ahead Network writes that, “DeVol is at the forefront of efforts to create sustainable prosperity for individuals in communities in the United States. DeVol's additive, results driven approach centers on uniting all stakeholders to reduce the impact of poverty; build resources; and support one another through education, training and planning.”

The purpose of “Getting Ahead” is to help people who would like to change their life and financial circumstances.

According to the text book, “Getting Ahead takes you step by step through a discovery of yourself like no other. It's not just about how you got were you are now. It's also about what comes next to build the life you want.”

Graduates of the class will leave with a step-by-step personal plan that will help them to change their circumstances.

Class participants also investigate barriers and conditions in their communities which keep people from becoming self-sufficient.

One of these barriers identified by the Getting Ahead Class that graduated in 2010 was the lack of a grocery store and how it impacted the community. That prompted the class to do some research on how to secure fresh food for the City of Jeannette residents and helped them understand the retail marketing aspect of the food industry.

This class will be facilitated by Diana Gray and Clarence Garland. Gray is the retired Western Pennsylvania Field Director for the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) in Pittsburgh and has a long history of working with people who are in need of low-income housing.

Garland, the co-facilitator, is a graduate of the class.

“As a participant, the class really helped me to get a feel for the bigger picture and gave me the drive to get involved in my community,” said Garland. “As a co-facilitator, it allowed me to share a lot of my experiences and try to inspire others to do the same.”

The Bridges to Prosperity in Jeannette has graduated five “Getting Ahead” classes since 2007. Participants who have graduated have gone on to attend college, acquire better paying jobs, reduce credit debt and refinance mortgages at lower interest rates.

Jeannette residents interested in “Getting Ahead,” should contact Bridges Community Connector Lucille Bittner at 724-244-5751. Bridges to Prosperity holds weekly meetings on Wednesdays.

Guests are always welcome and should contact Bittner if they would like to attend a meeting.

Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.