More than 75 members of our Thrive! family gathered on Tuesday, December 18 to celebrate the graduation of two Leaders and the holiday season. We played crazy Christmas games, enjoyed a meal provided by the board, desserts provided by Leaders and others — and even had a special visitor from the North Pole!
Facing new challenges
We often talk about how Thrive! helps Leaders learn to set goals and face new challenges. One Leader, Chloe, has the goal of becoming the first woman in her immediate family to earn a four-year degree and becoming an English teacher. Here's an update on her progress.
Like many teens around mid-August, Chloe awoke, ate breakfast, got dressed, and took the first step in achieving her dream.
Chloe is amazed at what she’s accomplished in 18 weeks at Barton Community College. “I’m achieving in math class! That is not normally a class I do well in. I’m willing to admit that I am not good in math.”
World religion and personal finance were among her other first-semester courses. Pursuing a double major in psychology and English, Chloe found one course particularly interesting: Psychology of a Serial Killer.
“I took the class as it didn’t require any prerequisites. I’m learning a lot about how our brains work, our mental thought process and mental illness.” Chloe continues, “It’s interesting to understand the early signs of mental illness and what to notice.”
The transition to college life hasn’t been without a few challenges. “Transportation is my biggest challenge since we’ve been without a working vehicle since July. I’m relying on friends to provide a ride or neighbors who let my dad borrow their car.”
Another challenge is time management. Everything [assignments and textbooks] is online. "I struggle with the discipline to get online,” she shares. “I designed this [notebook]. I write down everything that is due or must be done for each class. I can easily see everything on one page.”
Perhaps the most difficult challenge was starting school without her mom. “I lost my mom about 10 days before school started. Guess it’s better to have a schedule and keep occupied than worry about what might have been.”
During the difficult months, Chloe leaned on her Thrive! Ally. “She helped me evaluate community colleges and guide me through the registration process.” Chloe is grateful for her Ally’s mentoring. She’s also thankful for her dad’s military service, which makes her eligible for scholarships.
Chloe is on track for another semester and plans to transfer to a university after two years. Ultimately, she’d like “to give back to my family and community. Return to my hometown in Georgia and teach English.” We are proud of Chloe's progress!
From handshakes to hugs challenge
Milo Kelley, president of the Thrive! board, recently issued the "handshakes to hugs" challenge to local social services agencies via a letter to the editor in the Manhattan Mercury. Below is the text of his letter. Milo works hard on behalf of Thrive!, and we appreciate his challenge to the Manhattan community. All of us need to work to deliver hugs — sometimes literal, sometimes metaphorical (not everyone enjoys hugging) — to others who are experiencing the stressors of poverty.
I have been actively engaged with a number of initiatives related to providing assistance and care to those struggling with poverty in Manhattan for a number of years, and I have been closely associated with Thrive! Flint Hills for about three years. I have learned so much about both the stresses people in poverty experience as well as the stereotypes they battle. I’m particularly troubled by the way many people, particularly those in poverty, are treated as they seek assistance from a number of local agencies.
Engaging poverty is difficult for those experiencing poverty and for those who are trying to help. The stresses of living in poverty are overwhelming and nearly unbearable at times, and those seeking assistance can be angry and difficult. But agencies and the individuals who work for them need to be not only professional, but also courteous and caring.
To be truly helpful, agency staff and volunteers need to listen carefully and acknowledge the stresses and frustrations of those who are experiencing poverty. Acknowledging needs or demands — even outside what an individual agency can provide — can help individuals seeking services feel heard. Active listening that demonstrates understanding of requests calms almost everyone. It may take three or four times longer than just telling people they need to go elsewhere, but it is much more effective and helpful. When people feel heard and understood, they are better prepared to listen to what you can do to help meet their needs, even if they need to visit another agency.
I see this listening and caring as moving from a handshake to hugs. A handshake is professional, but a hug is caring. A hug conveys a more personal connection, an understanding, and recognition that the person is valued. This is something few people in poverty experience. Like all of us, people struggling with poverty want to be noticed, thought of as important, and worthy of respect.
Every individual and agency in the Manhattan social services community should actively work to move from handshakes to hugs. I encourage every agency to take the “From Handshakes to Hugs” Challenge. If you do, post it where others can see it; in your waiting areas, on social media, and talk about what you are doing. Invest in our community by doing this for everyone who passes through your door.
— Milo Kelley
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