Bridges Out of Poverty brings cheer to graduates |

Bridges Out of Poverty brings cheer to graduates

United Way's Community Impact Program continues to shine

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Bridges out of Poverty celebrated its "Pristine Sixteen" who graduated from the program on Thursday night at the Center of Craig.

Sixteen happy people were honored Thursday night for participating in a program aimed at making their lives better.

Bridges Out of Poverty offers classes to those who live below the poverty line, giving them resources, solutions, inspiration and tools to help them get ahead in life.

"I found this class has been really helpful for me to maintain a budget," said Ashley Gonzalez. "It's helped me learn how to get involved in the community. I've actually even made new friends in this class."

The class ran twice per week for nine weeks at the Moffat County School District Administration building, in which Community Impact Coordinator Aspen Matthews led the students through a rigorous course about economic and social change.

“This is our fourth round, so we'll have 58 graduates from the program (so far since it started in 2013),” Matthews said.

The program is coordinated under Moffat County United Way and has a huge support system in place to make each participate thrive.

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“It has taught me that this community has a lot of resources, and that this community has support,” said Ben Hawks, who graduated with his wife Brianna.

The couple has two daughters to support, Melodie, 3, and Penelopie, 5 months.

"It's another accomplishment under my belt," Ben Hawks said. The group voted that he gave the speech on their behalf at the event held at The Center of Craig.

The graduating class was called the "”Pristine Sixteen” — all of whom were given graduation certificates and presents in front of a packed audience.

The Community Impact Program operates on an $80,000 annual budget that is in part funded by United Way and through grants.

Sponsors include Yampa Valley Community Foundation, The Daniels Fund, Anschutz Family Foundation and the Collaborative Management Program, Matthews said.

The next program begins at the end of January, and those interested in participating in Bridges Out of Poverty, can call Matthews at 970-326-6222.

Participants must be 200 percent or lower than the Federal Poverty Level to be accepted into the program.

Federal Poverty Level includes individuals who make $11,770 per year, a family of two that makes $15,930 per year or a family of four that brings in $24,250 per year, according to

Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.