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Friday, January 13, 2012

UNCP’s HealthyStart: Bridges Out of Poverty Program takes off at Regional Center

Nineteen Healthy Start CORPS program participants began a shared journey in late 2011 to increase their awareness of poverty as it affects their lives and the lives of almost a third of Robeson County residents.

Kay Freeman (left) with program participants

Kay Freeman (left) with program participants

Black Line

The 19 participants are enrolled in the Bridges Out of Poverty training series, a case management and community intervention program offered by UNC Pembroke’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development. In the Bridges program, participants got on a fast track to study poverty, and what they learned about themselves was revealing.

During a sharing session, one participant, who asked not to be named, said, “Most people don’t even know what poverty is, nor do they realize they are living within it.” The participant discussed what she learned and how she uses it outside the classroom.
In the Getting Ahead segment of the Bridges program, participants are mothers or soon-to-be mothers, who are enrolled in a series of 15 two-hour poverty reduction sessions. They are provided with transportation and childcare as well as a stipend.

The Bridges Out of Poverty program was developed by Aha! Process Inc., an organization that promotes personal and community development through training and products. Among other projects, participants complete the “Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World” workbook with a trained facilitator.

Kay Freeman

Black Line

Kay Freeman, Healthy Start CORPS director, received training in Atlanta in late 2011. She was trained on the teaching and implementation methods to present the material using a “triple-lens scope” involving the individual, the community and the institution.

Freeman said she is “eager and excited to share the knowledge” she gained with the hopes of increasing awareness and quality of life for others who are interested in becoming “investigators” on the topic of poverty reduction:

“We are all impacted by poverty on various levels,” Freeman said. “This binds the participants together on a common venture to become part of an informal research team that studies the causes and effects of poverty. By examining the definition of poverty, which is defined as ‘the extent to which one does without resources,’ and exploring the four basic causes of poverty, participants are brought into an increased awareness. As investigators they offer suggestions on how to reduce the impact of poverty in their lives as well as in the lives of their families and members of their communities.”

The program applies the use of mental models to demonstrate in concrete terms how people can envision positive change occurring in their lives. The term mental model is not expressly defined; it is, in essence, similar to the concept of a paradigm -- an integrative set of ideas and practices that shape the ways people view and interact with the world. The participants are asked to create a mental model of their life and how they want it be in the future. These models are collected and displayed for group learning and shared experience.

One of the upcoming sessions will include a field trip to Campbell Soup Company’s Maxton plant for a learning luncheon. Healthy Start CORPS partnered with two Campbell’s Soup minority employee groups, Campbell’s African American Network and Maxton American Indian Network. The mission of these groups is to bridge the gap between industry and community. Personal testimonies serve as teaching tools for program participants who are struggling with the same obstacles as some of the current employees at the Maxton plant. Many of Campbell’s employees are single mothers who overcame similar barriers, such as the lack of education and employment opportunities, and many of them hope to impact younger generations by sharing their success stories.

For more information about the Bridges Out of Poverty Program, contact Freeman at UNCP’s Regional Center at 910.775.4000 or email

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