“Someone else’s challenges aren’t just their challenges; they are the challenges of a community.” That is one reason why Dr. Karen Rice, social work, says that Millersville University is partnering with community groups throughout Lancaster to empower people to be able to permanently move out of poverty.
United Way recently funded the Community Action Program (CAP) and several other entities, including MU, who are participating in the “Pathways Out of Poverty through Circles” project, with a $94,709 grant. The project provides low-income families with 16 weeks of training. The grant will help pay for a staff person, provide stipends for Millersville students and fund a variety of miscellaneous things including room rental for meetings and bus passes for families.
“We have a long history with CAP and the Circles program,” said Rice. “We place both undergraduate and graduate students with CAP for the students’ field placement and learning requirements. That interaction led to us being a part of this collaborative effort.”
Millersville students, under the supervision of Rice, will be responsible for the evaluation of the program. They will develop a system to collect data over time and they will also create a measurement plan for the project. The thrust of the work will begin in August with the start of the fall semester.
“The project looks at the systemic barriers to getting out of poverty,” explained Rice. “It reflects our values of the social work department in addressing oppression and collaborating with the community. Whenever the University can be part of a community change effort and help a community positively, it’s a good thing.”
In addition to CAP and MU, the Pathways project includes; Central PA Food Bank/Hunger Free Lancaster County, Columbia Presbyterian Church, Community Life Network, First United Methodist Church, Habitat for Humanity, Lancaster County Council of Churches, Tabor Community Services and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
“One of the tenants of the Circles program is to stress the importance of education. Thaddeus Stevens is one of the collaborative partners and they provide tutoring to people in the program. Going forward, Circles program would like to partner with other universities and reinforce the importance of education to getting out of poverty. Since Millersville is the largest provider of higher education in the county, it’s essential that we’re involved in this project.”