Stories

Bridges “Getting Ahead” Grad Looks to a Bright Future

At 23 years old, Tia has been through a lot. Kicked out of her parents’ house shortly before her 18th birthday, she spent years in an abusive relationship, had three children and was homeless for much of 2015. Yet, despite the turmoil of her last few years, Tia is determined to make a better future for herself and her family.
 
“I’ve been trying to go to different programs, to see how to better my life,” she says. “To get out of the whole trapped feeling.”
 
Indeed, Tia says she often does feel as though she is trapped. With three children and a part-time job working in a mail room, she struggles to find the time to accomplish her goals. Applying for full-time employment takes time, she says, and so does studying to earn her GED, which she plans to start doing next month. 
 
Fortunately, Tia took advantage of “Getting Ahead” classes offered through Bridges Summit County. Led by United Way, the collaborative initiative helps low-income individuals learn the skills and access the resources they need to escape the cycle of poverty. For Tia, the most valuable part of the classes was how they taught her to manage her time better, so that she can meet the demands of her life.
 
“There’s people here that actually care and that help you move forward, so that you can get somewhere,” she says. And it is important to Tia that she keeps moving forward, because she wants a better life for herself and her children. Beyond that, she would love to travel. Tia has never left Ohio, never seen the ocean. To start, she hopes to one day visit her friend in North Carolina — she hears there are nice beaches there. 
 
On May 6, Tia and her “Getting Ahead” classmates celebrated their completion of the program with a small graduation ceremony. Tia’s boyfriend, Melvin, was there, along with her three children, Aaliyah, Amare and Amiyah. As the ceremony came to a close, they took the podium to congratulate Tia on her hard work. With Melvin holding her up, four-year-old Aaliyah leaned toward the microphone, beaming. 
 
“I’m proud of you, mommy,” she said.
 
Bridges Summit County “Getting Ahead” graduates, on average, have higher employment rates, work more hours per week and earn significantly higher incomes. Through initiatives like Bridges Summit County, United Way is working to empower individuals and families so that they can find their own pathways out of poverty.