On Thursday, 20 people were honored for taking the first steps in breaking the cycle of poverty.

On Thursday, 20 people were honored for taking the first steps in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Circles of McPherson County graduated its 11th group of students from its Getting Ahead class. This class is the entry to the Circles program, which seeks to end generational poverty through education and empowerment.

"It's a class on economic class culture and looks at ways different types of people think about money, based on their economic situation," said Rebecca Lewis, a circles coach. "We also look at the parents' situation and emotional growth and development, helping them learn skills like how to collaborate at a job or in a group."

So far, 119 people have graduated from the 18-week program in McPherson County. Graduates range from high school-aged students to 60 years old. They include three couples and affect 15 children. As part of graduating, participants outline dreams, a goals they want to achieve, as well as steps they can take to achieve those goals.

"This time, all our graduates have the dream of owning their own home," Lewis said. "You can see their hope of wanting a life of stability."

One of the challenges people face in overcoming poverty, particularly generational poverty, is thinking beyond the money mindset of a person who struggles to make ends meet. Families in poverty have a hard time planning ahead because most, if not, all of the money they bring in is spent on immediate needs, such as food or bills.

"That mindset makes it hard to think long-term," Lewis said. "A lot of low-income people rely on others and help other people if they have extra, which is good, but makes it hard for them to build up their own financial wellbeing."

Lewis said an example of this is when people receive a tax return. She said Circles helps people realize that money can be save in an emergency fund or used to pay off debt more quickly.

Lewis said this kind of class isn't just helpful to people who are trying to escape poverty. Understanding a poverty mindset can help others better understand their plight.

In fact, Circles is looking for people to become moral supports for those who are trying to get out of poverty.

"We're excited to invite people to be allies," she said. "On Sept. 7, we're having an all-day training for people who are interested, as well as people who work with those in poverty and would like more information to be able to connect with them."

The next Getting Ahead class will be offered in Lindsborg in January. For more information on Circles classes and programs, contact Lewis at rebecca@circlesmcpherson.org.