graduating class

The fourth graduating class at the Uplift People of Elk Grove’s Aug. 24 ceremony at Elk Grove United Methodist Church.

Uplift People of Elk Grove, a nonprofit that works to help people break from the cycle of poverty, held their fourth graduation on Aug. 24.

Judy Sala, an Uplift board member, led a toast and quoted Christopher Robin from a Winnie the Pooh story:  “Promise me you’ll always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Gathered on the outdoor patio area at Elk Grove United Methodist Church, this cohort has had a very unique experience in that they have met remotely over the past eight months while studying their curriculum. They had their first face-to-face encounter just a few weeks ago.

“We are very proud of their achievements as they continue to better their lives and their community through this unprecedented time,” said Jeff Teague, a co-program cooridnator for Uplift.

His nonprofit’s curriculum is based on the concepts found in Ruby Payne’s book, “Bridges Out Of Poverty.” It covers topics that focus on understanding the reasons people can be trapped in poverty and identify ways out. Some of the topics covered include trauma, owning accountability, hidden class rules, budgeting, healthy relationships, and creating abundance in the community.

The graduates or “champions” in the curriculum’s first phase are awarded a grocery gift card to help offset expenses. This phase takes approximately nine months and, upon completion, champions are honored in a graduation ceremony.

Champion Laverne, who was ill during the graduation, sent Teague a message to read at the ceremony. She’s been retired for three years and has “too much time on (her) hands.”

“My biggest goal is to get a job for the state,” Laverne wrote. I’ve been working on losing weight. I lost 13 pounds by eating healthier and would like to lose 15 more within five years…I look forward to the workshop on not being a victim of trauma. I have past events in my life that have affected me, that still affect me negatively. These are integral in the next five years.”

In Phase Two, the participants will learn about goal setting, leadership, financial, physical and emotional well-being, mental health, and addiction.

Workshops include topics such as how to apply for state job employment opportunities and animal care or military service, police force, poetry and resume writing, improving job interviewing skills, and finding job postings.

In September, weekly presentations on topics will include credit repair mindfulness and meditation. Then, in Phase Three or “the giving back phase,” participants will be encouraged to get back to their community by connecting with volunteer opportunities in their communities that align with their references in the future. With the COVID Delta variant and health concerns, hybrid meetings are being considered.

Behind the graduation are the accomplishments of the participants.

“You have to accomplish something; you have to set out to do what you’re going to do,” said Crystal, a member of Uplift People of Elk Grove’s first cohort.

She and her two children were homeless after she lost her job of 18 years at Costco. They are now thriving as she owns a housecleaning business, Crystal Clean, and has her apartment. She attended the graduation in support of the fourth cohort.

Crystal has become a mentor and is often found out in the community doing outreach work for Uplift. She also serves on the meal committee which coordinates dinners for weekly meetings. Her daughter is off drugs, surrounded by new friends. Her son is actively involved in local sports programs and is doing well in school. One of her goals was to get a job.

Her mentor’s daughter, who is a graphic designer by trade, made Crystal her business cards.

“I have help every step of the way,” she said. “Normally I would have said no. I would have walked away and suffered the consequences.”