Building a Bridge Out Of Poverty
Michelle Taylor hopes the 15-week class will help turn her life around. “I need finances to help with me and my family,” she told WSBT News. “I'm tired of living that ghetto mentality — it's time for me to get up and be something bigger.”
“Poverty can be so grinding that no matter what you do you can't get out,” explained Executive Director Bonnie Bazata.
That's why she started the program “Bridges out of Poverty” while working at Saint Mary’s College in 2004. The need became so great, she left Saint Mary’s in 2007 to become the Bridges director at the YWCA of St. Joseph County. The class is part of the 'Bridges' program.
The current poverty line for a family of four is $22,050. So a family of four making less than that is considered poor. Recent census figures show St. Joseph County fares better than the national average. But the numbers increase dramatically for the city of South Bend, and when it comes to single women, they're even worse.
Below Poverty Line U.S. St. Joseph County South Bend
For single women head of households in South Bend with children under 5, more than half are living in poverty.
“We lived in poverty for years, so it was time to make a change,” said Michelle Foster.
Foster is one of the 200 students that have completed the class and now has a job. “I work at McDonald’s!” she laughed. She laughs, but knows that in this economy, that's something. She plans to go to Ivy Tech in May. “I'm very proud of myself,” she added. “Going to school after 23 years is a very big deal.”
“I think part of what people walk out of this class with is a sense of hope, that ‘I can really get out,” said Bazatta.
Michelle Taylor is on her way. She's looking for work, and is headed to Brown Mackie College. “I would like to be a deaf interpreter,” she said, since her mother is hearing impaired.
Bridges out of Poverty is a nationwide and countywide program that gives students the tools they need to improve their lives. Ten local agencies like St. Margaret's House and Hope Rescue Mission take part. Classes are free, thanks to grant money from local agencies. Men take the class as well. Bridges tracked 58 former students for a year, and found 84 percent improved their income, and 69 percent were continuing their education. Bazata says it It takes two to four years to move out of poverty.
St. Mary’s Getting to the Bottom
Local Success Stories
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