This month Bridges Out of Poverty honors Alkeyna Aldridge. She is the Director of Engagement and Economic Empowerment in the Department of Community Investment with the City of South Bend. Alkeyna was an intern at St. Joseph County Bridges Out of Poverty in 2008. Although she is not a graduate of the Getting Ahead classes, she feels that the classes she helped facilitate had a great impact on her. Alkeyna had her first interaction with the classes while she was a junior in college. Though raised in poverty, she had found herself at Notre Dame, having to learn new ways of being. Alkeyna said that the Getting Ahead Class helped her realized that “oh, I’m different” but “just because I was different didn’t mean anything was wrong with me or my experience.”
Alkeyna had begun the internship with Bridges as a way to apply what she had been learning in her Sociology degree at Notre Dame. She received more in return then what she was expecting. She left those classes with what she said was “a stronger sense that I wanted to continue poverty work within the community.” Alkeyna said this about Getting Ahead and its effect on her “gave me a mind frame on policy and how to facilitate social mobility in families in poverty”. Alkeyna wants to live her life and serve in her communities in a way that will allow those in poverty to “run through an open door”.
Alkeyna is proud of the work she did as the JAG program educator, JAG is a dropout prevention program. She frequently had the opportunity to share information that she learned through the Getting Ahead classes with both her coworkers and those she would be educating. Alkeyna often used music, mostly Lupe Fiasco and Jay Z, to make the connection between the Getting Ahead classes and main stream media. She found that people understood the themes related to wealth and poverty much better through those exercises.
When asked how she views herself, Alkeyna said that she feels as though she is bouncing between spaces. Walking the line between breaking out of poverty, being a part of the Notre Dame community and having the Middle Class experience. What she had learned through the Getting Ahead classes though, she said, “affirmed where I was… I am not selling out.” In fact, Alkeyna said that “there is power in that”, in regards to being between two different life styles. Her situation and experiences have allowed her and will allow her to reach a larger number of people in the communities she is a part of.
Alkeyna says that she would recommend the Getting Ahead class to anyone and everyone. “Everyone needs to witness the hard work of others”; the classes allow us to better recognize others and their work and struggles. She feels that it is also important for everyone to be able to recognize what it is that they bring to the table, as well as to accept what other people and their experiecnes are bringing to the table.