Understanding Through Experience
Michelle has three sons and a daughter, all under the age of ten. Her husband injured his knee and was unable to work. Michelle's job as a gas station attendant didn't bring in enough money to feed her family.
"We were living off a small paycheck, $5.15 per hour, and it got to where paycheck to paycheck wasn't paying the bills," Michelle said.
Michelle found herself in a situation she could do little to change.
"Nobody wants to be in poverty. If you ask somebody do you want to live this way, they're going to tell you no. This is not the way we want to live," Cherry Merchant of the Circle Program said.
Michelle found herself struggling with more than just a money shortage.
"To me, I thought I was the scum on somebody's shoes. The middle class are wealthy. I thought nobody would talk to me. Nobody would recognize me in poverty...To actually go to someone and ask for help. It's very hard," Michelle said.
Michelle found help from Job Point at the Marshall Career Center.
"She didn't have much self esteem because they had been in a poverty situation for some time. It was just hard on her so we made the determination that she was going to go back to school," Michelle's Job Point Advisor, Mary Ann Piper, said.
School was Michelle's missing piece. She took night classes in business technology and graduated at the top of her class. Job Point then connected Michelle with an internship at the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency.
Michelle went on to write legislators telling them of the plight of the poor. She won a state essay contest and helped organize a 180 mile walk to end poverty.
"During that walk, we had rallies in several of our counties and she got up and told her story and challenged the community to help end poverty," said Ann Graff of Missouri Valley Community Action. "Many times when people come to us for services, they're in crisis mode and having that experience herself, she has an empathy that many people who've been through that do not have."
Michelle's employers were so impressed with their intern, they hired her full time. Now she's helping others build their own financial framework.
"People need to stop and reognize people who are in poverty don't choose to be there. A lot of us don't choose to be there. We just don't have the resources to get out. And that's where now, I now have the resources to get out. It's now my job to help," Michelle said.
Michelle was one of four people honored with an Award of Excellence from Job Point.