On Saturday, the Salvation Army at Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus celebrated the first 12 Bridges Out of Poverty students from Council Bluffs with a graduation ceremony.

Bridges Out of Poverty was introduced to the area in 2015 when Roger Howard, a retiree from a 40-year healthcare consulting career, discovered that 100,000 individuals in the Greater Omaha Area live in poverty.

Howard joined forces with John Parsons in 2016, founder of the Omaha Street School, to help “eradicate poverty in the area”, bringing Omaha Bridges to life through its regional “getting ahead” facilitator, Sharon Jackson, who also brought a wealth of experience in working with under-resourced families, according to the Omaha Bridges website.

This year, the program expanded into Council Bluffs, as more classes become available this July.

As the graduates lined up to receive their diplomas on Saturday, they held a smile on their face in front of their family and friends who attended the ceremony in support.

Each graduate committed to attending a 10-week course designed to introduce them to resources and goal-oriented decision-making tools that would help them eradicate poverty in their own lives.

A graduate of the first Council Bluffs class, Takia Triplett moved to the area almost three years ago, pregnant with her son. She was introduced to the program through another resource and said she learned how to make goals achievable and what resources are available for her to reach them.

Iyarii Deneroz, another graduate of the program, said she learned how to value and assess herself, that everyone has a struggle to choose from and there are steps to get out of that.

“If you’re not assessing yourself, I don’t feel like you’re adequately living because you have to step away from what you know to find you, to be comfortable with you and progress. If you’re not able to do that life isn’t going to show you abundance,” she said.

Before the class, Deneroz had dreams of wanting to own more than one business. Being stricken with poverty, various situations of homelessness and not having communal support as a transgender person, she said she lost sight of those dreams, but the journey taught her a lot about herself that she didn’t know.

“The first thing I need to do is save and invest in myself. I appreciate now that I can look at where I want to be and a measurable time frame when I think I will be there,” she said.

Deneroz plans on opening a secondhand boutique and a shelter for transgender youth and adults.

“Class was a stepping stone, now everything else is in gear,” she said.

The next Bridges Out of Poverty class in Council Bluffs begins July 1 in Spanish and July 22 in English. Over the 10 weeks, individuals can learn about 11 personal resources including time management, emotions and finances, motivation and persistence, and social capital.

“This is a mental-cognitive ship. We try to help individuals realize the resources in the community and inside of themselves. At the end of the group, we hope individuals have a better way to navigate different economic classes,” said Carl Jackson, director of life skills coaching for Omaha Bridges Out of Poverty. “With all this knowledge, we hope individuals are able to better navigate society.”

For more information or to apply for a class, go to omabop.org.

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