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March 2, 2018

The Newton County School System’s two-year initiative to create an Opportunity Community (OC) in Newton County to assist people to move out—and stay out—of poverty is making great strides. With guidance from national poverty expert, Dr. Donna Beegle, school district employees and community leaders have attended workshops leading to the development of an Opportunity Community model, an education program for Neighbors (persons impacted my poverty) designed to remove the shame that prevents people from moving forward and from grabbing opportunities. The OC also works to reduce the isolation of poverty by connecting Neighbors to Navigators, thus building community wide networks of support.

According to Dr. Beegle, anyone can be a Navigator.  Navigators are simply community members who agree to become trained (through the OC model) to understand different experiences of poverty, to learn the structural causes of poverty, and to gain communication and relationship building skills. Navigators commit to sharing their contact information and to using their networks to assist their Neighbor to access resources and support for moving out and staying out of poverty.

And that’s where the Newton County School System needs support. While many business and community leaders have volunteered to become trained Navigators, the need in our community is just too great. More trained Navigators are needed.

As such, the Newton County School System will offer free Navigator training to interested residents on March 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Newton College and Career Academy and on Saturday, March 10 at 1:00 p.m. at Newton High School. No registration or fee is required to participate.

“Poverty affects over seventy percent of our students,” said Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of Newton County Schools. “Our families and children are the ‘lifeblood’ of our community, and if they are struggling, we must act. The Opportunity Community offers a community-wide framework to connect our Neighbors to Navigators. We need more trained Navigators. I encourage those in the community who wish to become a Navigator to attend one of these two Navigator workshops.”

She added, “Navigators aren’t expected to provide financial resources or support for the Neighbors who are members of the Opportunity Community. Instead, they are trained to provide assistance by offering advice, sharing important information, and offering a listening ear their Neighbor. The ultimate goal is to create a network that connects all of the helping organizations in our community so those in the grips of poverty know about and have access to the many resources available in Newton County.”