Bridges program under new name, leadership

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
A graphic explains the program's process.

For several years now, Shawnee has had a program that has operated with a goal to confront poverty through education and collaboration.

The program, which for years has sported the unofficial nickname Bridges, recently shifted its name to Shawnee Bridges Out of Poverty.

The reference to bridges comes from well-established curriculum the group uses for its classes — Bridges Out of Poverty.

The group is now is seeking a director.

The program — originally called Neighboring 101 — began in Shawnee in October 2014.

The program was first organized locally under the Salvation Army-Shawnee.

Tiffany Walker, a graduate of the 2014 Pilot Getting Ahead class, is now serving as interim program director.

“As the interim program director, my plan is to work closely with our board, graduates and the community to implement Shawnee Bridges' vision of reducing the social cost of poverty, strengthening the workforce and building a more prosperous and sustainable community,” she said. “We will be offering Bridges training for the various community sectors, hosting additional Getting Ahead (GA) classes, and implementing a Staying Ahead initiative for GA graduates.”

Walker said she is excited to embark on her new adventure and bring the program's framework to the forefront of the community.

According to its website, at shawneebridges.com, key areas of focus in the nonprofit's classes are:

  • Financial: Having enough income to purchase goods and services and to save or invest money. Having an educated understanding of how money works and being financially literate.
  • Emotional: Being able to choose and control emotional responses particularly to negative situations without engaging in self-destructive behavior. This is the "state of mind" that determines the way we think, feel, and behave at any given moment. This is a resource that shows itself through stamina and choice. This is about interpersonal skills like teamwork, teaching others, leadership, negotiation, and working with people from many backgrounds.
  • Mental/cognitive: Having the mental ability and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life. This includes how much education and training individuals have in order to compete in the workplace for well-paying jobs or run their own business.
  • Language: Having the vocabulary, language ability, and negotiation skills to succeed in the work and/or school environments.
  • Social capital: Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in times of need. Sometimes this resource is called "Support Systems."
  • Physical: Having physical health and mobility.
  • Spiritual: Believing in divine purpose and guidance and/or having a rich cultural connection that offers support and guidance.
  • Integrity/trust: Trust is linked to two issues — predictability and safety. Can I know with some certainty that this person will do what he/she says? Can I predict with some accuracy that it will occur nearly every time? The second part of the question is safety: Will I be safe with this person?
  • Motivation/persistence: Having the energy and drive to prepare for, plan, and complete projects, jobs, and personal changes.
  • Relationships/Role models: Having frequent access to adults who are appropriate, who are nurturing, and who don't engage in self-destructive behavior.
  • Knowledge of hidden Rules: Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of poverty, middle class, and wealth.

Bridges will be celebrating its first graduation under its new name and leadership July 13. The class, with a specific focus on single moms, consisted of five women who completed the course through Zoom meetings, as COVID-19 rendered the traditional classroom setting impossible.

The program accepts applications for the Getting Ahead group from anyone in the community.

Groups meet once a week, and offers free curriculum materials; free childcare; a free meal (for participants and children); and compensation for investigative participation.

Getting Ahead meetings span about five months.

Participants who complete the sessions are eligible to graduate and are presented with a certificate of achievement.

For more information, visit shawneebridges.com; email director@shawneebridges.com; go to 126 S. Center or call (405) 432-2430.

About Walker

Walker is a mother of two teenagers and has lived in Shawnee for 17 years. She is a Getting Ahead graduate and a certified trainer in Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin'-By-World. Walker authored and developed Blueprints Drafting Success, a follow up curriculum for Getting Ahead graduates. She has coordinated various community events, like Backpacks for Back to School and Feed the Children Pop Up Teacher Store. Walker said she is passionate about building resources for individuals often underserved, the working families struggling to provide life's basic necessities. She challenges and inspires those in poverty to use their voice about their individual barriers to poverty.

“I want individuals in poverty to know they do have a choice and can be successful,” she said.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.