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Bridges Out Of Poverty

Posted by R.H. Brown | July 16, 2012 / 04:42pm | Local News, Business, Faith & Family

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) -- A program in North Mississippi is helping people get ahead in life by giving them the tools for success.

About a dozen people needing a hand up in life recently graduated from the Bridges Out of Poverty program in Starkville. Similar programs are under way in Winston, Noxubee and other area counties.

Its goal is to get them across the poverty line and into the middle class.

"One of the things that I did not realize is how difficult it is for people in generational poverty to pull themselves out of poverty," said Lynn Phillips-Gaines, executive director of the 'Bridges Out of Poverty' program talking about families who are stuck in a cycle of poverty from one generation to the next..

The three-pronged grassroots project, developed by caring communities, helps people get ahead in a just-getting-by world.

First, the 16 three-hour sessiones are aimed at educating the middle class about the plight of those in poverty.

"And then the second thing we do is we take people that are living in the lower economic, socioeconomic strata and we teach them about poverty. The very same material, but it's done in such a way that they can understand it. People in poverty do not process the world the same way people in the middle class do," said Phillip-Gaines.

"Where it allows people in poverty to take power over their own lives, it allows them to enter a discussion about what poverty looks like," said Tequilla Manning, the program's operations manager.

The third phase pushes graduates out into the world, to make their own way in life.

"Once the getting ahead people graduate, then they go into a two-year, one-on-one mentoring program with someone that's walking with them," said Phillips-Gaines.

"When you've got somebody who's motivating you and telling you you can do it, you can do it. You have to push people. But some people get weak by the wayside and they just give up," explained Shirley Ross, one of the program's participants.

There is also a Bridges for Kids program aimed at children ages 3 to 16. 

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