Elia Moreno and Me

Donna and Elia

Elia Moreno and Me

Elia first came to a training I was doing in 2010 in Amarillo, TX. She later told me, “You wrecked my life.” She said she thought she was understanding poverty and serving people well, but learned that she could do so much more. She was soon hired to coordinate the Opportunity Community efforts in Amarillo.

A perfect example of her commitment to her neighbors living in poverty happened after the second Amarillo Opportunity Conference. The community partners all went out to dinner to celebrate. Elia received a phone call, then turned to me and said, “I have to leave.” It turns out that a single mom from the Opportunity Conference had called her. It was Friday and she was desperate to get diapers for her baby. A church had told her if she could make it to them before they left for the day, they would help. She used her last bit of money to take a bus across town. When she arrived at the church, they gave her only six diapers for the entire weekend. Elia left the celebration, picked up the mom, and got her diapers. Time after time, I have seen Elia drop everything to impact someone’s life—just like she did for this single mom.

Within three years, Elia was certified as a Beegle Poverty Coach. Soon after, we contracted with her to be our National Program Director. Elia works with organizations to bring the Beegle Poverty Immersion and Coaching Institutes to their community. She also serves as one of our Opportunity Coaches—assisting communities in building their capacity to implement and sustain our Opportunity Community model in cities around the country. She is also one of our top Beegle Speakers.

Elia has devoted her life to making a difference for people who live in the crisis of poverty. She walks her talk! We are so fortunate to have her as part of our Communication Across Barriers team.

Author: Donna on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:33

AMARILLO, TX ~ Seasoned Beegle Speaker and Coach Shares Successful GED Model

Elia Moreno

Seasoned Beegle Speaker and Coach Shares Successful GED Model

Elia Moreno, a seasoned poverty expert, wears many hats and titles – her latest, Founder and CEO of Living Intentionally Ministries, a community space in Amarillo, Texas that provides support to adults seeking a GED, with a focus on removing barriers that individuals might have to accessing education and opportunities. The center opened less than a year ago and is currently serving 170 students. She shares with us what makes her program unique and successful.

“First, we make it easy and we treat people with dignity. There are no hurdles to jump,” says Moreno. Easy access includes no screening process. No income restrictions or guidelines. “We serve people who have recently gotten out of prison, teen moms, anyone who wants to work on their GED, even if you make $100,000 a year,” says Moreno.

Easy access to the initial GED assessment helps attracts students. Individuals can complete a 45-minute assessment either during office hours at the center or anytime they have access to a computer outside of the center. “After completing the assessment, people often become encouraged and think ‘Maybe I can do it,’” says Moreno.

The goal is to instill hope and provide connections to opportunities. “Some people who come to the center are not employed. Then, they graduate with their GED and start earning an income, even if it is just $8-10 an hour,” Moreno says. “This gives them hope that they can obtain gainful employment and maybe even pursue educational opportunities.” Proud of the success they are having, Moreno says that—of the 24 recent GED graduates—7 of them have gone on to college.

Self-paced services help create personalized plans to meet individuals where they are and guide them to completion. If initial assessment results shows a student is ready to take any of the four GED tests, they can do so right away. Students are not required to complete any classes. Classes are available for those who would like to participate. “Some people finish all of their tests in a few weeks while others may take a couple of years,” Moreno says. Support is personalized in a way that also provides privacy. No one knows if an individual struggles with math or literacy.

Failure is not an option for Moreno. No matter what an individual’s literacy level, Living Intentionally Ministries will help either in-house or through partnerships. Currently, they are working to implement a literacy program. “Through that process, we learned that the Language Arts portion touches on U.S. History, which creates a barrier for some. In addition to their limited literacy, they don't have enough background information in U.S. History to be successful in the literacy class. We have also found that if a student didn't take U.S. History or was absent a lot, they will not be able to answer the questions correctly—no matter how strong their literacy skills are.” So Elia and her team are teaching US History and showing videos to help make history come alive for their students.

Whatever barriers an individual has, Moreno and her staff work tirelessly to remove them in a way that shows people they matter and are important. Moreno says they could not do this without community partnerships, which she strives to continue to build and maintain. “We recognize that people have barriers such as transportation and childcare. We help them access resources so that they can move forward. And there is no label of shame. Our job is to serve people in a way that imparts dignity.”

Moreno has always had good intentions of helping people move out of poverty, but this strategy has not always been her approach. “I met Donna [Beegle] about 12 years ago and she wrecked my life.” Moreno jokes. “I was thinking that I was doing everything right. Once I learned about poverty from her, I had to change how I was working with people.  I've always considered myself caring and compassionate, but, after the trainings, I was better able to listen to what the person I was serving needed, rather than giving them what I thought they needed. " she says. "Since meeting Donna, I have evolved.”

Using the principles of Communication Across Barriers, Moreno has positively impacted her community in several capacities over the last 10 years and has also been working closely with Dr. Beegle in various capacities. Her first time working with Dr. Beegle was when she assisted in establishing the Amarillo Opportunity Community, a program that has served over 2,200 adults and over 4,000 children of these families. Since then, she completed the Beegle Poverty Coach certificate in 2010 and has been a Beegle Speaker since 2014, speaking across the country to various organizations. Moreno also serves as Dr. Beegle’s National Program Director for the Opportunity Community program. If you are interested in implementing the Opportunity Community model in your city, please contact Elia Moreno at Elia@combarriers.com.

Moreno has also found time to write two books about her experiences with serving people in poverty. “Living Intentionally: Mastering the Art of Impacting Others in Just 90 Seconds” was released six years ago. It details the strategies she learned to connect with people she serves. After years of working with people in poverty, her more recent book,“Permission to Rest,” discusses the process of growing weary of serving. “We need self-care to continue to allow compassion,”she says. Books can be purchased as www.noexcusesu.com.

In addition to overseeing the Living Intentionally Community center and working with Dr. Beegle, Moreno also serves her community and country in several other capacities. She currently is Co-Executive Director of Texas Christian Community Development Network. She is also the National Director of Community Outreach for the No Excuses University Network of Schools, a growing network of 250 schools that promote college readiness for all students, especially those living in poverty.

In a future newsletter, we will ask Moreno to reveal the super power she possesses that gives her the ability to manage so much responsibility.

Author: lynda on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:23

SACRAMENTO, CA ~ Nurse's Small Changes Lead to Big Impacts for Patients and Community

Danise Seaters and Dr. Beegle

Nurse's Small Changes Lead to Big Impacts for Patients and Community

At UC Davis Medical Center’s Emergency Department (ED), Danise Seaters has seen a lot in her 16 years of working as a Nurse Practitioner. What impacts her most are the patients that repeatedly visit the ED and seem to get lost in the medical system. “Many of these patients have some form of health insurance, but have never seen a primary care doctor—so access to the ED is their only avenue to health care,” she explains. Often these patients are referred to as “frequent flyers” or “non-compliant.” However, Seaters understands that this patient population returns often due to a lack of resources including poor access to primary care, inability to pay for required prescriptions or necessary specialty clinics, difficulty understanding discharge instructions, and other poverty-related barriers—such as not knowing how to maneuver the health care system and not having the time it takes to establish a primary care doctor.

Wanting to do more—and at the recommendation of her sister, a public education administrator—Seaters attended the 2019 Stockton Beegle Poverty Immersion Institute. The experience not only changed how she provides medical care and interacts with patients, it has given her the inspiration to lead change in the community and foster improvements on healthcare outcomes for people struggling in poverty. “I have always wanted to give better care and felt for those in need." says Seaters. "After hearing Dr. Beegle speak, I knew I wanted to do even more.”

Small changes in her practice have led to big impacts. “Before, I treated symptoms and medical conditions. Now, I treat patients. Now, my interactions are drastically different since becoming more poverty informed,” she explains. Her new strategies incorporate building rapport, validating struggles and experiences, assessing patients for poverty-related barriers, tailoring discharge instructions, and connecting patients to resources.

For professionals who say they do not have time to ask questions or who may feel uncomfortable asking questions, Seaters offers this solution: build rapport and save the most sensitive questions until the end of your time together. One way to build rapport is to simply share information about yourself. “I told one patient who was a single mom that I had been raised by a single mom. I tried to show her that I understood how hard she was working to provide for her family. After that, it was easier for her to open up to me and share her struggles. Then we were better able to provide a good plan of action for her and her family.”

Asking personal questions is easier if you help the patient feel comfortable, explains Seaters. She does this by validating their experiences, finding common ground, or just listening. “Once I have heard what they are going through, I can say something like, ‘It sounds like you are working really hard since you have two jobs and work every day of the week.’ ‘When it is really cold outside, that is a very difficult time to have nowhere to go.’” Seaters credits her new approach to working with patients to the concepts she learned at the Beegle Poverty Institute. “Having gone through Dr. Beegle’s training definitely changed how I interact with patients. It only takes a few minutes to help people feel validated.”

"Before attending the Poverty Institute, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking questions or screening all of my patients.” Seaters explains. “But, the institute allowed me to have a better understanding of poverty and how it impacts people. I now have the ability to assess and connect with my patients in ways that avoid unintentional harm."

"If you are not asking the right questions, you can not fully understand someone's needs,” Seaters says. Not only does she ask a patient about their medical history, she asks all my patients if they have access to a primary care doctor and how long it takes to get an appointment with them. She asks them more personal questions such as ‘where do you get your food’ and ‘do you have transportation for follow-up care.’ She even asks questions about employment: ‘Are you currently working? How many jobs?’

Personal questions may be hard to ask, but they are critical to care. “As providers, we tell people to eat healthy, nutritious foods. But these are often costly. We need to ask our patients what foods they have easy access to, because they don’t always have choices," Seaters says. “Once we learn about the options they have, we can provide more appropriate instructions on what foods to eat and how to prepare them.”

Seaters also asks if they have money to pay for their prescriptions. "This helps me to choose cost-effective medications or alternatives that they may be able to afford. My goal is to develop obtainable options for them."

Traditionally, patients living in the crisis of poverty do not expect to get help outside of an ED doctor’s medical advice, but Seaters wants to change that. She tells the story of a young woman who came into the ER because she was scared she might be having a miscarriage. After building rapport, Seaters asked her questions about a prenatal provider to treat her during her pregnancy and where she was living. At first, the young woman was reluctant to answer the questions. But as she became more comfortable with Seaters, she disclosed that she was homeless and had been worried that her baby would be taken away from her. Seaters explained that it was her job to help her and that there was no social worker there to take her baby. Seaters connected her to the resources she needed to have a healthy baby, got her access to prenatal care, and discussed programs such as WIC.”

In addition to improving her own practice, Seaters has stepped up as a leader in her community by working to create better community partnerships. Her recent work includes coordinating partnerships between the hospital and community resources for those struggling in poverty. “We have become more aware of what resources are available in the community," she explains, “and try to connect my patients with them when appropriate.” Because of her efforts, UC Davis’ Emergency Department now has government funded “Health Navigator Representatives” to help connect patients to primary care doctors, social workers, and others in the community that can provide resources. She would also like to work with the California State Legislature to improve resources for people who are homeless.

Seaters plans to continue her leadership with the goal of creating a more Poverty-Informed community that improves healthcare outcomes for people in need. She does this by providing poverty awareness lectures and education to local organizations. She is also working to bring Dr. Beegle to Sacramento to conduct a Beegle Poverty Immersion Institute for hospital staff and community organizations. Seaters concluded, “Poverty awareness has drastically transformed me and how I deliver care to my ED patients. I recommend that all civil service personnel seek out poverty awareness to improve our outcomes. Together we can make positive change to those living in poverty.”

Seaters' Strategies in Action

All of Seaters’ new strategies are highlighted in a story about a patient who was in the ED for an upper respiratory infection. First, she did a quick search in the electronic medical records and saw that he had been into the ED a few times recently for the same issue. He could have followed up with a primary doctor, but instead he was back at the ED. This led her to believe that he may have some barriers to accessing healthcare. After talking with him for a bit, she learned that he was not working and that he had just recently been released from prison—three months earlier—after 26 years of incarceration. After sharing this information, he promptly diverted his gaze to the ground and stopped making eye contact. He speculated, “Lady, I am pretty sure you think I’m a bad person.” Seaters firmly told him, “No. You paid your debt to society. It is not my job to judge you. I am here to provide medical care. So, how can I help you today, Sir?” Seaters continued to ask questions such as how he was adjusting to life after prison. He got teary and told her that he could not find a job. He was 46 years old and a lot had changed. He asked, “Can you believe we don’t have payphones anymore?”

Seaters continued asking questions—learning that he earned a GED in prison. “I acknowledged all the hard work he must have done and told him he should be proud of obtaining his GED.” After Seaters validated his experiences, the patient went on to reveal that he did not have a home and was "couch surfing." He also revealed that he did not have a primary care doctor. At the end of the meeting, Seaters connected him to a primary doctor and other resources in the community. He was emotional and said, ‘Thank you for treating me like a human. It's been a long time since someone has.”

Author: lynda on Tue, 01/28/2020 - 14:11

RAPID CITY, SD ~ City Imbeds Over 300 Certified Beegle Poverty Coaches to Provide Foundation for Rapid City Prosperity Initiative

Rapid City, SD

Rapid City, SD Embeds Over 300 trained Prosperity Coaches to Eradicate Poverty

You can visit Rapid City, South Dakota, but you may not see them -- over 300 Prosperity Coaches embedded throughout the city. They don't wear a uniform, but they are there, trained and ready to respond to people in the crisis of poverty. This unique approach to eradicating poverty, based on the work of Dr. Beegle, has proven to be successful in this town of 74,000 residents.

The effort to become Poverty Informed began six years ago when the John T. Vucurevich Foundation invited Dr. Beegle to train staff and community partners on poverty and to get the conversation started on eradicating poverty. Out of this, the “Prosperity Initiative” was born, a community-wide initiative to become more poverty-informed and create long-term sustainable change for individuals and families. Since then, gover 300 individuals throughout the city have taken the time to participate in Dr. Beegle's Poverty Institutes and have been certified as Beegle Poverty Coaches, or "Prosperity Coaches," as the foundation and city refers to them.

We spoke with Jess Gromer, Program Officer, and Jessica Olson, Program Associate, of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation who tell us that since bringing Dr. Beegle in, the community has been transformed. Organizations collaborate together more than ever before. Prosperity Coaches continue to make progress. They meet regularly to address barriers clients are experiencing and have improved organizational polices and created access to resources for people struggling.

“It is still a buzz word in our community to be Poverty Informed,” says Olson. Being Poverty Informed means that individuals share a common language that bring them together for the common goal eliminating poverty and striving to create an environment where everyone thrives. “It really is a collaborative effort to help individuals get over the barriers they face,” says Gromer.

On average, about 35-40 coaches meet monthly to discuss working with families and individuals who are experiencing poverty. “Coaches are highly integrated into the community,” says Olsong. “They brainstorm solutions, encourage one another, and discuss policy changes to help remove barriers for people who are struggling.”

Policy change is one area that Prosperity Coaches have made an impact. “Western Dakota Tech (WDT), our local technical college, has really embraced becoming poverty informed,” says Olsong. “The entire faculty and administration went through Dr. Beegle’s poverty trainings.” The college now has a Student Success Center, staffed with Prosperity Coaches who provide support services and connections to community resources for students in need. Among those resources, WDT has developed an emergency food pantry and has started an emergency fund. "When students are experiencing a crisis, they don't have to automatically drop out for the semester,” explains Olson. “Instead, there are now trained individuals to help students through those barriers.”

Brand new access to housing for people struggling is another achievement this Poverty Informed city is proudly anticipating. Through a collaborative effort from multiple individuals and organizations, three housing towers are under construction – one tower for families, one for men, and one for women. The project, called “OneHeart,” is expected to be completed early 2021. But the community knows that housing alone is not enough to help people move forward. The towers will have space to provide on-site wrap-around support. The services will include building relationships with residents and connecting them to healthcare, mental health services, and education and job training to help them move out and stay out of poverty. “With a collaborative approach to services and supports being available in one location, this will provide hope and healing to move families and individuals out of poverty,” says Olson.

Gromer says that the foundation has really changed since bringing Dr. Beegle in. "We are really making sure we look through the lens of poverty when we make decisions on what we fund," says Gromer. She recalls the first time she heard Dr. Beegle speak. “It definitely opened all of our eyes to working with individuals coming from poverty ... I absolutely learned a different perspective--particularly when it comes to generational poverty. It changed my approach.”

Author: lynda on Wed, 01/22/2020 - 12:57

From Fostercare and Gangs to Becoming a Role Model: Sneak Peak of an Upcoming Beegle Speaker

Man standing on street at night, smiling a camera

From Fostercare and Gangs to Becoming a Role Model: Sneak Peak of an Upcoming Beegle Speaker

David Jackson of Amarillo, Texas, is one of the newest members on his way to becoming a Beegle Poverty Speaker. He has a very moving story to tell about growing up in poverty, but we won’t give you the details now because he is currently writing a memoir. What we can tell you is that Jackson grew up in poverty with a family that moved frequently, received government assistance often, and sometimes lived in their car. “My parents had to give blood to pay bills,” he says. Without community support and connections to resources, Jackson and his siblings ended up in foster homes where he endured more painful experiences that led to a life of gang membership.

Jackson found hope for a better future through a case worker. “She believed in me when no one else did. She made a change in my life that I didn’t know was going to happen—which has had a ripple effect over time.” Jackson says the case worker does not know the impact she had on him. But, since meeting her, he made two attempts to go to college. The first try didn’t work because the campus was not within walking distance and he had no transportation. Eight years later, after becoming a father, Jackson made another attempt at college. “I had a little girl and I didn’t want her to believe that is how her life should be—working a 9-5 job at minimum wage. I wanted her to have a better way,” he says. This time he successfully graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science.

Working as tech support, Jackson crossed paths with Dr. Donna Beegle and got to sit down with her at a dinner and tell his story. “I am excited to have David as a speaker. He has the lived experiences and the desire to deeply understand poverty and how he can help," says Dr. Beegle. Since that first meeting with Dr. Beegle, Jackson has completed the Poverty Immersion and Coaching Institute, and soon will be attending the Beegle Speaker training (formerly GoldStar) in 2020.

When asked why he wants to be a Beegle Speaker, Jackson says, “I don’t want kids giving up like I did—without the hope needed for getting out of the situation they are in. I would’ve had a better life, a better start, if I had help. I don’t want parents to endure this type of pain and for kids to go without.”

We will keep you posted when Jackson finishes his book and makes it available to the public.



Author: lynda on Fri, 08/16/2019 - 17:18

Cortland County, New York -- The Newest Opportunity Community

Three women

Cortland, New York -- The Newest Opportunity Community

Cortland, New York – It took several years to get funding, but Lindy Glennon, Executive Director of Cortland County Community Action Program, Inc (CAPCO), finally secured a grant through the Alliance for Economic Inclusion to begin the process last March for Cortland County to become an "Opportunity Community," a Beegle program designed to eliminate poverty through leveraging resources.

“There are many strengths in the Cortland County community," says Glennon. "I truly believed that the Opportunity Community process would give us the framework, support and guidance to bring those strengths together in a new way to address the issues facing low income people in our community. It is doing that, and exceeding even my high hopes of what it could mean."

The program kicked off last March with a Leadership For Change Summit--a meeting where Dr. Beegle spoke to leaders to create a shared understanding of the many different types of poverty, how they impact our neighbors, and strategies to break barriers. During the Summit, leaders gained tools for channeling their existing resources and human capital in ways they have never done before. More than 40 Cortland Leaders participated in the summit. “After starting the process, it took on its own own natural flow,” says Joyce Allen, Adult Education Coordinator with CAPCO. “We had a lot of amazing feedback. People kept asking, when is she (Dr. Beegle) coming back?”

Community interest grew. "We are seeing people from every area of the community – elected officials, human services, medical, law enforcement, education, faith based and so many others – coming together to be a part of this process," says Glennon.  In May, over 200 attendees heard Dr. Beegle speak at the Prosperity Summit. The Prosperity Summit brings the community together to begin to take action, discuss next steps for becoming an Opportunity Community, and ask community members to become a Navigator for one year for neighbors who are struggling. Allen says they had about 25% of attendees sign up to be a Navigator.

In September, Navigators will attend a one-day training where they learn a deeper level of understanding poverty and different communication styles, as well as strategies for connecting, relating, and supporting individuals and families living in poverty. Navigators are also connected to a wide-range of resources that will help them to quickly remove barriers for the neighbors they work with.

After Navigator training, the community will be ready to host the Opportunity Conference for neighbors living in the crisis of poverty. This six-hour training scheduled for October 26, 2019, highlights the strengths of neighbors and helps them gain a deeper understanding of their skills, knowledge, and experiences that can be turned into ways to earn a living. The goals of the conference are to 1) remove the shame of living in poverty, 2) rebuild hope, and 3) remove isolation by building networks of support.

Cortland is a community where nearly half of the families with school-age children qualify for free and reduced lunch. According to Glennon and Allen, there is no stopping now. Community support is strong and Cortland is seeing action everyday. In may, County Legislators passed a Proclamation to make Cortland County an Opportunity Community. This community is going forward with eliminating poverty and creating the kind of communities we all want to live in.

Author: lynda on Fri, 08/16/2019 - 16:18

Leadership in Action – Superintendent Works with Dr. Beegle to Illuminate and Eliminate Poverty Barriers

Dr. Micheal Duncan and Donna Beegle Posing

Leadership in Action – Superintendent Works with Dr. Beegle to Illuminate and Eliminate Poverty Barriers

Dr. Duncan grew up with mixed social-class experiences. He lived in an impoverished neighborhood, but on the skirts of a more affluent area where he attended school with other middle-class students. His father was a construction worker. His mother, who had a 6th grade education, stayed home with the kids. Growing up, he heard the way his mother communicated and related in the world and thought it was odd, different. “She didn’t have the same social etiquette of my middle-class friends and I never understood that. She had some push back and some anger.” It was at the Beegle Poverty Immersion Institute that Dr. Duncan finally understood his mom—gaining insights into some of the “whys” behind his mother’s behavior. He realized that she had not had middle-class life experiences and exposures, thus she saw the world through a poverty lens. She endured a life of poverty, trauma, instability and had post-traumatic stress disorder. She grew up in a large family with nine siblings. They moved frequently. Many of her siblings ended up in foster care and/or juvenile detention. The realization of his mom's experience took Dr. Duncan to a new level of action. “After leaving the training, I decided that –as a district—we have to go deeper into understanding poverty and its impacts. We have to figure out ways for others in our community to go through this training so that we can flip the script and help others.”

Dr. Duncan wanted more people educated about poverty and the evidence-based best practices that work to improve education outcomes. Over the course of the next year and a half, Dr. Duncan recruited others in the community to join forces. He shared his learnings from Dr. Beegle and talked to a variety of leaders in the community: school board members, faith based organizations, non-profits, Chamber of Commerce, workforce development, government, local banks, etc. “Every few months I would have lunch with a small group and bring people together to share poverty-informed information and develop common goals for breaking barriers.” Eventually, he established a core group who were passionate about steering their community to authentic, meaningful change to improve outcomes for their neighbors isolated in poverty. “The idea was to start small. We are just at the beginning of our journey.”

The core group grew to a broad spectrum of 30 community leaders who have all recently attended the Beegle Poverty Immersion Institute in Griffin, GA. Much of the tuition for attending the Institute was paid for through corporate sponsorships that Dr. Duncan received. He approached business leaders and was pleased that, “No one told me no,” when he asked for sponsors. People were excited that efforts were happening to address poverty in their neighborhoods. Several of the community leaders continued to become Beegle Certified Poverty Coaches. Beegle Poverty Coaches are certified to train and educate their organizations and to develop action plans with measurable goals for improving outcomes for students and families who live in the crisis of poverty.

Over the next six weeks, Dr. Duncan will bring his team together for education and strategic planning with community partners. “Our strategy is to ensure all staff and leaders are poverty informed. We want to gain empathy so that everyone feels inspired to remove poverty barriers. I want to challenge my staff and others to help think of what we can do for a lasting impact. We want to try to develop a deeper understanding of what will make a real difference.”

Dr. Duncan knows that change must not be dictated or pushed on the community from a few alpha leaders, but instead, evolve from the community and students and families who are currently fighting poverty. They plan to reach out to those living off the grid, build relationships, and engage them in the process. “Most great things happen with intentional increments. We want to build something that is sustainable over time.”

He adds that, “We can’t do our part without Dr. Beegle and her team at Communication Across Barriers (CAB) to provide us with more education, training, and layers to move forward.” We at CAB are ready to support Dr. Duncan and his partners on their journey to improve outcomes. We can’t wait to hear of (and share) their continued success.

Author: lynda on Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:37

Century College’s Beegle Certified Coaches And Community Partnerships Create Poverty-Informed Supports For Student Success

Donna Beegle and Michele Jersak posing with signs

Community Partnerships Create Institutionalized Poverty-Informed Supports

After six years of partnering with Dr. Beegle, Century College is going strong with ground-breaking supports from staff and community for students living in poverty. Improvements include a more poverty-informed approach to reaching, retaining, and ensuring college completion, and community support has become more sustainable, ongoing and institutionalized into the culture of Century college and its community.

Beegle Poverty Coach and Century College Advising Counselor , Michele Jersak, spearheaded efforts in 2013 to bring Dr. Beegle in for a staff training.  Since then, the college has hosted three Beegle Institutes, training hundreds of administrators, faculty, and staff -- including staff at partnering colleges, community members, and K-12 leaders.  After hosting the first Beegle Institute, Jersak remembers that a lot of the feedback from Century College staff was, “Wow! We didn’t know students were struggling.”  Training staff to become poverty informed has been transformative. "The work Dr. Beegle has done with Century College and other Minnesota colleges has had many impacts,” says Jersak. "Faculty and staff report seeing their students through a new lens and are able to build stronger connections for removing poverty obstacles."

In addition to improving staff knowledge of poverty, a deeper level of support emerged from the community after Century College partnered with Dr. Beegle to implement the Opportunity Community program. This model includes a community-wide “Leadership for Change” event and a “Student Success Summit” to increase community partners. Over 100 community partners came to the first Beegle Student Success Summit to learn how they could join efforts and improve outcomes. “After the Opportunity College model was implemented, we were able to align with partners we never had collaborated with before to remove obstacles students were facing," says Jersak. "Those partnerships are still operating and growing."

One example of the impact of community support is illustrated with the evolution of the “food shelf” which has grown into a cutting-edge service for students in need. Before learning about Dr. Beegle, Jersak and staff struggled to keep a shelf stocked with dry food for students who were in need. After implementing the Opportunity Community, the college now has a strong support from community members that are committed to making sure that no student goes hungry. The support is far from a one-and-done act of kindness. All throughout the month, community volunteers come to campus on a set schedule to stock the food shelf with fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, and sandwiches. A local church raised funds to purchase a refrigerator with a glass door to showcase available chilled items. Another community organization that has large trucks rescues food from grocery stores that would otherwise be thrown out and brings them to the college. “It is now like a farmers' market,” says Jersak. About 80 students a month frequent the center for a daily meal that includes sandwiches and other items students can eat right away or grab-and-go.

But many students do not grab-and-go. With community support, the center has turned into a dedicated space where students feel comfortable hanging out and getting connected to resources. The “Resource and Support Center” is ran by students who do intake and connect peers to community agencies to get their basic needs met -- such as housing, clothing, jobs, etc. “When you have spaces like this on campus, it helps to have students run it.” says Michele. "Then, it’s not just a counseling center any more, so students feel comfortable walking in.”

Jersak says that the bottom line is that being a poverty-informed college and community has helped them to know students better and made community partnerships a priority. Dr. Beegle and our CAB team are proud of Jersak, the staff and faculty at Century College, and their community partners for setting a great example on what is possible when we work with students to remove poverty barriers. We can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Author: lynda on Tue, 08/06/2019 - 09:44

Welcome to Communication Across Barriers

Dr. Donna M. Beegle

My education, my work, and my passion are to help people from all races who are trapped in poverty. I want them to have genuine options for lifelong success. This can only happen if the voices of those struggling with poverty can be heard and their perspectives understood.


Poverty is resolvable, however, making a difference for people who live in the crisis of poverty requires a paradigm shift. A shift that moves us beyond stereotypes and judgement to a deeper understanding of the causes of poverty and its impact on human beings. With this awareness, we can work together to provide genuine opportunities for people to move out of poverty. -- Donna Beegle


Dr. Donna Beegle will captivate the audience with an informative, inspirational and motivational keynote presentation that is customized for your group. The Keynote will include working more effectively with students and families who live in the crisis of poverty, improving communication across poverty barriers, One woman's journey from abject poverty to a Doctorate, or targeting your conference theme.


Dr. Donna M. Beegle provides inspirational, motivational, informative speeches customized for your Organization. Donna weaves personal experiences with research to provide insights for communicating and working more effectively across race, poverty, gender, and generational barriers.

All sessions are offered in a workshop or keynote format. Donna' s two most requested workshop sessions are “Poverty 101” and “Concrete tools for communicating more effectively.” Participants can receive continuing education credits. All sessions are customized to meet your organizational goals.


Beegle Poverty Immersion Institute

The Poverty Institute is hands on two-day poverty institute for educators, health, justice, social service professionals, and community members who want to better understand poverty and to gain tools for making a difference.

Beegle Coaching Institute

Poverty Coaching Institutes prepare participants to serve as poverty coaches for their organizations. A Communication Across Barriers poverty coach is trained to conduct workshops for breaking poverty barriers and improving communication and relationships for in-house staff. Coaches serve as on-site experts for educating colleagues, providing leadership for breaking poverty barriers, and developing system wide approaches for improving outcomes for families who live in the war zone of poverty. Poverty coaches will also be trained to conduct Poverty Competency Assessments and assist their organization in developing and implementing customized action plans with measurable results.

Beegle Speaker Institute

We want a movement guided by certified trainers who have a strong foundational knowledge of poverty and its impacts on children and families and who are grounded with a solid ability to assist in creating paradigm shifts and systemic change. At the Beegle Speaker Institute, participants will gain the skills for training and coaching individuals and organizations to ensure inclusive, responsive systems to truly make a difference for those living in the crisis of poverty.

If Not Me, Then Who

This training is intended for volunteers who work with people in poverty. It has two parts. The first part, (4 hours), is for everyone wanting to work with people in poverty and is full of information they'll need to do this. The second part (4 hours) is for people who would like to teach this curriculum to others, a "train the trainer" session. This would be idea for an organization wanting to deepen a large number of volunteers understanding, but do it in a very cost effective way. There is no better way than to have someone on site for this.


Opportunity Community

The Opportunity Community (OC) model is a national movement designed to create the types of communities we all want to live in. This can be achieved by increasing prosperity for the people living in the crisis of poverty. Dr. Donna M. Beegle combined her experience of living for 28 years in extreme migrant labor poverty, with 20 years of studying and working with communities to create a research-based model for assisting people to move out — and to stay out — of poverty.