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Strive 2 Thrive holds graduation

John Culbreath and Cynthia Young, market president of Bank of America in Albany, hold a giant check for $5,000, representing BOA’s donation to the the Strive 2 Thrive initiative. The money will go into a general fund for the poverty-fighting organization.

John Culbreath and Cynthia Young, market president of Bank of America in Albany, hold a giant check for $5,000, representing BOA’s donation to the the Strive 2 Thrive initiative. The money will go into a general fund for the poverty-fighting organization.

ALBANY — Strive 2 Thrive, a part of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and established to help economically challenged families and individuals rise from poverty, held its year-end graduation ceremony Thursday at First United Methodist Church.

One after the other, Strive 2 Thrive “Circle Leaders,” or those heads of families taking responsibility for their success, stepped forward to relate briefly their respective history in poverty and decision improve their situations. Most were young women with children.

One of the testimonies came from a woman who had dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because of a pregnancy.

Her several children were with her as she shared her faith in Strive 2 Thrive and her determination to succeed.

“During the interview, I told them how serious I was,” the woman said, “I understand, finally, what my grandmother used to tell me — that ‘life is what you make from it.’ I’m going on to get my GED now, so I can do the things I need to do provide for my family and myself.”

Strive 2 Thrive begins with a formal 18-week course, educating participants — chronically impoverished local families — on the positive possibilities of life and how to achieve them through education and other socially accepted means.

Beginning in January, the 27 Strive 2 Thrive families will be paired with specific “allies,” or community volunteers who have committed themselves to 18 months of availability to the Circle Leaders. Allies will give advise and the benefit of experience, but will not be financially responsible for the Circle Leaders.

“Strive 2 Thrive can help give people a chance they may never have gotten,” said Ausha Jackson, coordinator of the program. “It’s designed to be a hand up and not a handout. When the community supports a program like this, it comes back to them as those they’ve helped are paying their own way.”

Jackson can be seen as something of a success model, having overcome a number of life’s obstacles, including a teen pregnancy and poverty. Determined to succeed, she went on to earn her undergraduate degree and is now pursuing a doctorate in business administration at Waldon University.

During the graduation program, it was announced that Bank of America is making a $5,000 grant to the Strive 2 Thrive general fund.

“We’ve been following this organization for some time now,” said Cynthia Young, market president of Bank of America in Albany. “They have it right. They have the proper mindset for sure. You can have all the tools you want or need but unless you have the mindset change you go right back to where you were. They’ve put a lot of hard work into this.”

The grant was presented symbolically as a giant check by Young and John Culbreath, former superintendent of Dougherty County Schools.

In addition, LaGrange College and Capitol City Bank presented $1,100 each to the organization to be used for individual development accounts. Each dollar deposited to a special account by Strive 2 Thrive members will be matched by $2 from the fund.

In order to quality for matching, purchases from the fund must be for a home, to start a business or to further higher education.

Cynthia George, who founded the local Strive 2 Thrive initiative three years ago, said chamber leaders questioned whether they should be the group to back the organization.

“Some of them didn’t feel it was the responsibility of the chamber,” George said. “I was able to convince them that it would be a good thing for the community as a whole. What we’re dealing with here is generational poverty, and if we can break the cycle it will be a good thing for everyone. We’re talking about opportunity, not a handout.”