Extension Program Helps Struggling Hoosiers

Larissa Williams

Larissa Williams (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Larissa Williams of Huntington, Indiana, was in a canoe without a paddle when she showed up to the first day of a Getting Ahead class led by Purdue Extension.

A college-educated wife and mother of two, Williams was struggling to get back on her feet after a disability had kept her out of the workplace for several years. She wanted to become a certified nurse assistant, but life below the poverty line had bankrupted her self-esteem.

She expected the program, billed as a workshop to help those in poverty build resources, to offer tips for fine-tuning her résumé and building a budget, but the class surprised her.

"Getting Ahead is not just about getting a job," she says. "It teaches you social skills, how to network, how to build friendships and get the resources you need to make a better life for yourself. Getting Ahead shows you what you didn’t know."

The class helped her regain a sense of self-worth, and she successfully completed her nursing assistant certification. She now works in home health care and is financially stable.

Leading the Getting Ahead program in Huntington County is Karen Hinshaw, a Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences educator. A native of Huntington, she has watched the needs of her home county swell as local factories and companies close.

Hinshaw says rebuilding the financial stability of Hoosier families does not hinge solely on providing economic opportunities. The key to sustainable change is helping people in poverty identify and access the resources they need.

"To watch people come in feeling worthless and be able to encourage and empower them to figure out who they are, what they want and how to get there — there’s nothing more rewarding than that."

To read the full story, visit https://ag.purdue.edu/Pages/Poverty.html

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