Note: For people interested in applying for the Circles Coordinator position, we are republishing the following story from Nov. 2009 that provides information about the Circles Initiative. You can check out other stories about Circles by entering “Circles” in the search box at the top right corner of this blog.
The Monroe County Circles™ Initiative is happy to announce the graduation of the second Monroe County “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-By World” class! Ten participants in this training graduated in a moving ceremony on August 27th, 2009.
The Circles™ Initiative centered in Bloomington is now 18 months old. It’s one of ~50 Circles™ sites across the country, many having recently begun operations, and many others preparing to begin soon. The Bloomington initiative is the second in the state, following Muncie, and followed by South Bend and Scott County, with Indianapolis and other sites in the planning stages.
The goal of the nationwide Circles™ Initiative is to end poverty. Circles takes a multi-pronged approach to accomplishing this. The strategy is to match low-income people, called “Circle Leaders,” with “Community Allies,” middle-class people who assist Circle Leaders as they work through the plan that they have created themselves to work their way out of poverty. Allies provide emotional support, assistance with problem-solving, friendship, and connections to the middle-class community.
Second, through outreach efforts, Circles educates the community about the realities of poverty. Poverty simulations, Bridges Out of Poverty trainings, media pieces, and testimonials of Allies and Circle Leaders all help the program accomplish this.
This creates the community understanding and momentum needed to accomplish the third part of this strategy: working together as a local community to break down community barriers that are keeping people from getting ahead. Our “Big View” meetings, which will begin in late January during regular Thursday evening Circles™ Community meetings, will involve any Monroe County resident who wants to be part of this process. Circle Leaders lead the way in this, and are eager to make changes in their own lives as well as in the community.
Each Getting Ahead graduate spoke at the ceremony about his or her life and involvement with the Circles™ community. One new Circle Leader had this to say:
“I started out, I was working 80 hours every two weeks; then I got my hours cut to 24 hours a week. I’m a single father, and when things got hard – they (fellow graduates) know about me, I was a corner boy from pretty much 15 to 24, 25, and if you don’t know what that means, it’s a drug dealer – and my way out every time I’ve been in trouble is to go back to that. And I can honestly say that Circles has played a big part in keeping away from doing that and channeling my interests into other directions and seeking out other ways to get help, other than to get back out there in the streets.
“And that means a lot to me because I have a 4-year old son that I take care of by myself. It’s real hard as a single father because a lot of times you don’t get the help that single mothers get… I’ve learned a lot from Circles™.
“I’ve learned foremost that poverty isn’t something that happened to the Black community, the White community, the Chinese and so forth – this is a rainbow problem. It happens everywhere, it happens to everybody. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s nothing to be mad and said about.
“You just need to use your thinking cap and get it together. And together, I feel that we can make things happen and we can do things to make our community better for our children and for their children. I plan to do in the future a little bit more for, myself, the youth in our community.”
The previous graduating class of Circle Leaders were matched with their Allies in April. The new graduates will be matched in December. With their energy and enthusiasm, Monroe County is about to undergo a transformation!