Working Families Grant Program: Breaking the cycle of poverty one class at a time

Alumni Anna ThreetsAngela Threets is a prime example of the difference education can make in a life — and those linked to it.

Angela’s connection to the Working Families Grant Program began before she was accepted. Taking part in the AmeriCorps’ Fresh Start program, she earned a scholarship for building homes, which allowed her to begin classes at Moraine Park Technical College. While there, Angela came back in contact with her AmeriCorps’ program supervisor, who then worked with Marian’s Working Families Grant Program.

As a single parent of five children, it was difficult to afford schooling, food, and childcare. Previously, she had been on W-2, but as the program only covered her the time she was working, she couldn’t remain on it while pursuing a degree, she said. Knowing Angela wouldn’t be able to keep going in her current situation, the former AmeriCorps’ program supervisor recommended she apply for the Working Families Grant Program at Marian.

In a field of dozens of applicants, Angela was accepted into the program, setting in motion change. The grant gave her the ability to leave an unhealthy relationship, improving life for her and her children as she no longer had to be dependent on him. With funding given towards childcare, she felt comfortable going to class, as she knew her children were safe. Money provided for food added to her ability to put a meal on the table and purchase the children clothing and more.

During difficult times in life, the program supported her. In one year, her children’s father passed away from a medical disorder and she gave birth. To assist her, the program gave her enough gas money to make it to the funeral.

With stresses reduced, she was able to put more focus on work. Having been through various foster homes in her life and wanting to help children, she had originally planned to major in social work. However, as the degree would extend her education, she enrolled in the criminal justice program with the hope of achieving the same goals.

Her coursework taught her how “to better her family,” skills she hadn’t learned in her childhood, she said. In psychology, she learned about “nurturing the brain,” how to take care of her family, and maintain her health to promote her children. The importance of education was also magnified, and she enrolled her children in St. Mary’s Springs Academy, where they enjoy small class sizes and are thriving. As she did homework alongside her children, they learned the value of hard work from watching her.

“Education is so important to have and ingrain into your kids’ heads. They don’t have to get A’s, but just to go and learn to be able to excel and reach their dreams, education is important,” she said. “It’s not just about that career you want to do, it’s about you making a better person for yourself and for your family.”

More than 10 years after she graduated, the now mother of seven has come full circle. She is the owner of a Habitat for Humanity home, and no longer on W-2, and she works at Forward Service Corporation as a W-2 case manager.

The position came to her through the outreach of another participant in the Working Families Grant Program employed there. In her time at the organization, she has worked alongside multiple other participants, each working to help others rise out of poverty and to their best selves.

In her role, Angela helps customers find work through volunteering and receive funding for education, as well as connects them to resources. One of the resources she refers them to is the Working Families Grant Program, utilizing a skill she learned through the program: encouragement. Just like those who motivated her when she didn’t know if she could continue, she guides her customers towards reaching all the possibilities before them.

“There’s so many people, they have so much potential when they come to me,” she said. “When I see that potential, right away I give them the application to go to the Working Families Grant Program.”

Without the program and the education she received, she would not be helping others in this way. Instead, she believes she would be working a minimum wage job, not have the same relationship with her children, and not own her own home. Through education, she and her children have been set on a different path, on which she hopes the cycle of poverty is broken.

“Education lessens poverty, and the lesser poverty, the lesser crime. That’s something I learned that will always stick with me,” she said.

 

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