Moffat County United Way hosts Bridges Out of Poverty graduation ceremony | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County United Way hosts Bridges Out of Poverty graduation ceremony

Erin Fenner

Brittney Byers (pictured with son, Compton Byers) is a graduate of Moffat County United Way's Bridges Out of Poverty Getting Ahead course.

Moffat County United Way took on an ambitious project in 2013: to confront poverty, one of the root challenges the area needs to overcome.

"After we'd held our community conversations and really started looking at the results of those conversations, it occurred to us that poverty, or lack of opportunity, were creating the issues we had identified," executive director of United Way Corrie Ponikvar said.

United Way decided to launch a program that addressed poverty head on through the program called Bridges out of Poverty. The nationally used program educates community leaders and members about how class divides can affect cities and individual residents. It also takes a group of applicants through an eight-week course, Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World, which teaches the attendees skills to overcome their own poverty.

Fourteen Moffat County residents applied for the course, and 14 graduated, said Amanda Arnold, community impact coordinator for United Way. That 100 percent graduation rate is rare for the national program and a testament to the success of the local program, Arnold said.

"I feel great. I mean I'm really excited about the success of the program and the future of it," she said.

Brittney Byers, who completed the course, said she gained a lot of valuable know-how during the eight weeks.

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"I'm referring my friend to it because I learned a lot," she said.

On Monday night United Way hosted a graduation ceremony at the Center of Craig for people who completed the course. Nearly 80 people attended the event to enjoy a dinner, and discussion about the work to do to fight poverty. The event also functioned as a way to thank community partners who helped United Way in launching this program.

Mayor Terry Carwile noted that it would always be important to have these sort of programs.

"Even when it's in good times, we have folks who don't get to benefit from the upsurge in the economy," he said.

Lauri Carslay, who finished the course, was recommended to apply for Getting Ahead by her employers at The Memorial Hospital, she said.

Carslay is a single mother, with three of her five children still living at home. The program was beneficial to her, she said, because of the practical skills they went over in the course, like finances and networking.

But, Carslay wants to get involved with the program next as a teacher herself: leading a financial literacy course in the fall.

We talked about "not only what we can get, but what we can give," she said.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@craigdailypress.com.