Submitted by lynda on Fri, 08/16/2019 - 17:18
Man standing on street at night, smiling a camera

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.



Cortland County, New York -- The Newest Opportunity Community

Submitted by lynda on Fri, 08/16/2019 - 16:18
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.

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

Submitted by lynda on Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:37
Dr. Micheal Duncan and Donna Beegle Posing

Leadership in ActionSuperintendent Works with Dr. Beegle to Illuminate and Eliminate Poverty Barriers

Dr. Micheal Duncan, Superintendent of Pike County Schools and Beegle Poverty Coach, is on the verge of something big. He is on a mission to help leaders SEE poverty in their community and make a real difference for people living in crisis. 

For the last two years, he has slowly and quietly been building his army to fight the war on poverty, even though when you drive through his home town of Zebulon, Georgia, you will see a beautiful city—clean, landscaped, and neatly lined with middle-class homes. To an outsider, it looks like the town has no poverty. But Dr. Duncan, Superintendent knows differently.

“Our statistics are 40% free and reduced lunch, but because we have hidden poverty, I believe it is really 65%," says Dr. Duncan. "People live in shacks and trailers in the woods, hollers, and dirt roads. Poverty is in the shadows." It is a town with no government housing and no visible trailer parks. “With so many people in poverty living out of sight and off the grid, some community members believe that students and families don’t want help from the community,” he says. But after hearing Dr. Donna Beegle speak, Dr. Duncan realized that if the community was poverty informed they would think and act differently.

It started when Dr. Duncan went to a Beegle Institute, hoping to gain knowledge and tools for better serving students and families who were struggling in his community. What he learned was transformative—both personally and professionally. His experience took him to a deeper, personal level of emotions and understanding of his own life growing up and his family’s history which has ignited his passion to make a lasting, real change for the people hidden in his community and struggling.

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.

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

Submitted by lynda on Tue, 08/06/2019 - 09:44
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.

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.