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Naperville
Sunday, April 21, 2024

Loaves & Fishes Celebrates a Graduation

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The room looked like any small graduation ceremony filled with proud graduates, relatives and supporters. There were speeches by the graduates, laughter, cheers and a decorated cake. This graduation, however, was different because these eleven adults had completed the Moving Up Program offered by Loaves & Fishes Community Services. It was the third group to graduate from this program, bringing the total number of graduates to 28.

The Moving Up Program consists of 16 three-hour sessions for 8-12 participants guided by facilitators. The modules move through a difficult examination of poverty in our community, a study of rules economic class, the importance of language, a self-examination of their personal resources and development of their own smart goals to work toward after graduation. Some realized for the first time that they were living in poverty. Many participants stated that they have never had the time or the tools to plan for their future. This program allows them that opportunity and provides peer support too.

Our community offered much support. Each session was preceded by a warm meal provided by area churches along with childcare. St Thomas the Apostle Church offered space for regular meetings, and Alleluia! Church provided the space for graduation. Church and other community members served as mentors to the participants. These relationships offered a positive voice and a connection to ideas and resources from someone outside of their situation.

The hard work of change really begins after graduation. Each graduate is offered the opportunity to enroll in the county’s Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS) in which the participant will have an individual case worker to help them continue working toward their goals. It also offers regular group gatherings with speakers on a variety of topics. The program can provide support for up to five years.

Common comments heard from the graduates are “It changed my life” and “I will never be the same.” Their journey out of poverty has just begun, but we celebrate the work they have done to prepare for their journey.

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Lori Nalefski
Lori Nalefskihttp://www.loaves-fishes.org/
Lori Nalefski is the Program Manager at Loaves & Fishes Community Services. Contact her at lnalefski@loaves-fishes.org or visit loaves-fishes.org.
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