ALBANY, Ga. -- A graduation is sometimes thought of as an ending. To about 23 families in Albany on Thursday night, it meant a new beginning.
The Strive2Thrive organization's "Spring 2011 Celebration" meant the end of 17 weeks of training in fiscal responsibility, anger management and relationship building for the participants.
Armed with the training and continued coaching the participants plan to march out of poverty. Many told their stories at the ceremony in Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church.
"I grew up in poverty with my mother, my father, sister and brother. We all lived in a one-bedroom wooden apartment," said Shynikki Daniels. "I was raised up on welfare and food stamps. My mom and dad split up when I was about 12, which left my mother to raise us all by herself. I am now 23 and am a single parent of one child."
Other graduates also told stories of generational poverty. Many were abused women, others, men and women, black and white, had been to prison or had given their lives to substance abuse.
The dreams they told of now that they had a toehold in the real world ranged from modest housing and entrepreneurship to a Mercedes Benz in the driveway.
"I see myself having my own home, land and driving a semi-truck. I see my daughter graduating from high school," Daniels said. "The debt that I have will be paid off and my husband will have his own construction company and my future son will be in elementary school."
Daniels and the other graduates all understood that planning and hard work awaited them, whether it meant driving a truck, becoming a 911 operator or opening a beauty supply store.
This was the way to build a community that attracts businesses and thrives, said William Hancock an Albany Realtor and keynote speaker.
"Through divine intervention I got involved in Strive2Thrive," Hancock said. "All we needed in the community was a common cause. I believe the elimination of poverty is that cause."
The program is an initiative of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Anyone interested in the program can call (229) 434-8700.