Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Against the Grain (Nashville, TN)

Against the Grain's mission: "...empowering single mothers and their children, enabling them to become responsible leaders in their homes and communities." Though I am certainly not a mother yet (...if ever...sometimes I think to the chagrin of my mother since she would LOVE grandkids), I can connect on the basis of women's empowerment and thus why I chose to look into what they do...

AtG's main program as it is presented on their website is 180, so called because women who enter the program have realized they must do a 180 in their lives in order to become more self-sufficient and successful or else they are doing themselves and their children a disservice. This program includes both life skills classes like Budgeting 101, parenting classes, Jobs for Life, Financial Stewardship, Purpose Driven Life and Self Esteem classes and referral services/educational opportunities (through scholarships and partnerships with several local colleges and tech-schools). It is a two year program, which is something that is unique and encouraging. My sense from having looked at other programs is that 6 months is way too short to turn someone's life around, so 2 years is a much better commitment--both on the part of the organization and the women enrolled.

Year one: The women in the program are partnered with a life-coach. Questions immediately arise...what is a life coach? How involved are they in a woman's life? Are there daily, weekly, monthly check-ins? How supportive is the relationship between the coach and the woman? Can it or has it ever become accusatory, or negative in any way? How are the life-coaches trained, if at all?

Year two: "the life-coach and the AtG staff work with the mother to ensure the implementation of the training and completion of their customized plan. The mother also becomes an encourager for a new mom beginning the program." How is year two different from year one? How is it the same? Does the mother get trained to be an encourager? Can they eventually become a life-coach?

In reading past newsletters and other pages on their website, I also came away with additional questions that I hope will be clarified once I speak with someone at the organization: in addition to helping the mothers, does the organization help their kids as well (what is the kids 180 program, what is the Image Builders Mentors Program)? How much does religion play into this organization? How are the women supported...financially, emotionally, with accomodations, food, etc. What are some examples of women passing through the program? What types of encouragement or check-in has proven to be most effective in leading to success and empowerment of women? What is the "incentive pantry"? Do life skills that are taught include homeownership and DIY projects?

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