After completing a 12-week course, the first class of Circles of Troup County graduated Thursday night in an emotional and touching ceremony.
The Circles graduates are part of the Move the Mountain program which helps to inspire and equip families and communities to get out of poverty and become self-sufficient.
“I’m just thrilled to be a part of it,” said Sherri Brown, the director of the program. “We have a 22 percent poverty rate and one in three children live in poverty. We’ve got to deal with that.”
The seven female graduates read their speeches during the ceremony, entailing the struggles and their circumstances of poverty in which they now live. Some of them were raised in poverty and some had jobs that they and are now having to rely on government assistance.
One describes the turmoil of having to care for her two children while working full-time, and went back to school and got a degree, but still has not found a job 20 applications later.
Another graduate described of how she had resorted to illegal ways of making money, which had wound her up in a state prison.
More sadly, one described how her mother made her sleep with a man at the age of 15 so that they could pay their bills, and she ended up marrying a man and having kids because she felt that was how she would be stable. She is now divorced and is struggling to make a living.
In their speeches, the graduates thanked Brown for helping them take steps to improving their lives. They credited Circles in helping them take initiative , helping them to financial stability and not have to rely on government assistance and for providing a supportive and loving relationship to them that some never got from their families.
Brown is ecstatic about the progress and working with the graduates.
“I’m so excited,” said Brown. “This is so high impact and has the possibilities of changing these women, their children and their children’s children and even the community because we will address community issues as well.”
The graduates met over the course of 12 weeks and learned skills such as short and long-term goal setting, spending plans and financial management, and discussed areas including relationships, reason, purpose and significance.
Now that they have completed training, graduates will be paired with several middle and upper income allies who support and help them achieve their goals to become self-sufficient. Brown demonstrated during the ceremony that allies do not provide monetary support to the leaders, but helps them reduce overload by volunteering in cooking meals for them and their children, doing the laundry or volunteering to watch their children if they may not have time to study for school or other serious matters.
So far Brown said she has trained about 55 people to be allies and will be holding another training from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Mike Daniel Recreation Center. The cost is $25. Brown is also recruiting volunteers to provide child care and cook meals at the weekly Thursday meetings. To volunteer or for more information about Move the Mountain and Circles, please contact Sherri Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 706-883-1687.