On September 17th, Pathways to Progress celebrated its first graduation, celebrating the success and hard work of the Members throughout the program.
The Meaning of Graduation
The nine graduating Members, their friends and family, Pathways to Progress staff and supporters celebrated together at the Savoy Banquet Center in Florissant, Missouri. Member Advisor Sandy Watson says of the Members, “They accomplished the goals that they set out to do, which is no easy feat. When they first started, the goal probably looked so far away they could not imagine it. But every day they took small steps, and they got there.”
Member Tyra, who graduated this year, says that the program taught her “to be accountable to myself. When you accomplish something you set out to do, it feels amazing.” She credits her Member Advisor with working with her to learn life skills she uses each day to stay on track financially, create new spending habits, and build her assets. Because of all of her work and the integrated support of Pathways to Progress, she was able to vastly improve her quality of life over the duration of the program, including purchasing a vehicle.
Cheryl Archibald, board member for St. Francis Community Services, summed up the meaning of graduation best, saying, “Tonight we recognize that you have overcome barriers stacked so deep, it took several people to help set you on your feet again. We stand with you in recognition that you have not let your past define who you are, but instead have stepped into the person that you were always meant to be.”
Why Pathways? When Resources Are Not Equitable, Families Suffer the Consequences
Community support plays a big role in determining an individual’s quality of life. Recent research on St. Louis has demonstrated that community resources are not distributed equally throughout the region. In several areas, concentrated poverty and a low quality of life are the norm. This is not because of individual failings, but because the community does not have the resources it needs to thrive.
North County is one of those areas. Disinvestment, driven by segregation and policies at the local, state, and federal level, have made North County a place where community resources are in short supply, public transportation is hard to come by, and hope for a different future can seem distant.1https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/sites.wustl.edu/dist/3/1454/files/2018/06/Segregation-in-St.-Louis-Dismantling-the-Divide-22ih4vw.pdf When looking at this reality, Catholic Charities of St. Louis decided to develop and pilot Pathways to Progress to help ensure families have the community resources they need to increase their quality of life and improve their economic mobility.
Sticking with Families
Unlike traditional social services programs, Pathways to Progress provides individualized, wrap-around case management and support for families so they get exactly what they need to move forward. Support from Member Advisors and access to legal aid, both provided by St. Francis Community Services, are the heart of the program.
Member Advisors provide individualized support, encouragement, and accountability. Many Members in the program have outstanding tickets or warrants, and cannot move forward with many of their goals until these are addressed. One Member, when describing her traffic tickets, said, “I didn’t want to risk getting pulled over while driving with expired tags. If I could have driven to other counties to look for a job, I might have found a higher paying one, and with better pay I could take better care of my family.”
With the support needed to thrive, the results are impressive. To date, 86% of Members have improved their ability to meet their financial obligations or accumulated savings. 81% have maintained or improved their housing situation. 90% have improved their education or job training skills, and 89% of children in the program have maintained or improved their school performance.
Congratulations to the first Pathways to Progress graduates! We look forward to seeing all you are able to achieve in the future.