“I was born in Sagamihara, Japan…my mother’s second miracle baby. I was raised in an Air Force family that moved quite often, ranging from 1 ½ years to 3 ½ years across the world and have lived through major earthquakes and typhoons,” said Jan Sherrill, graduate of the Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World program through The Salvation Army. “I came to Oklahoma in 1981 working at Tinker Air Force Base with my husband. A year later, after encountering many difficulties in the marriage, I found myself alone and struggling financially. This is when I turned to The Salvation Army for help.”

“Poverty occurs in all races and in all countries. There is not a clear-cut distinction on who it affects,” said Leona Chapman, director of social services of The Salvation Army of Cleveland County. “Getting Ahead allows participants an opportunity to understand their hidden rules of class in which they were raised and help reconfigure those rules to help them be successful at school, work and in the community”.

The initiative kicked off in the spring of 2014 in Norman, Oklahoma. Since that time, The Salvation Army of Cleveland County has witnessed nine graduations with a combined total of 63 graduates. The program itself consists of 16-20 classes and takes place over an 8-10-week timespan. Each session takes approximately 2 ½ hours. Co-facilitators lead the participants through the sessions, exercises and discussions.

Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting’-By World is offered twice a year, in the spring and in the fall,” said Beatrice Johnston, Bridging the Gap coordinator. “Each semester allows for a maximum of 12 participants, or investigators, in the program. An investigator is the participant. This terminology is critical for the participant to understand because she is actively committing to the investigative process of her life and the community”.

Sherrill signed up as an investigator in the spring 2020 program and quickly realized her life was very different. “I had regular daily, weekly and monthly activities, however when COVID-19 continued to spread so quickly, my own military background served me well with anticipation of what was about to occur and how to respond”.

“The spring 2020 semester offered many challenges to not only the investigators but to the co-facilitators as well,” said Johnston. “We had to learn how to continue the Getting Ahead classes to ensure investigators were moving forward in their coursework which meant learning how to do virtual sessions via Zoom at first and then transitioning over to Microsoft Teams. Not only did these present challenges, there were some amazing opportunities that took place. All of us learned about virtual etiquette and how this skill set will go a long way in the business sector, most importantly with job interviews”.

“This year has been about overcoming obstacles,” said Chapman. “We need to remove as many barriers as possible to go further in our lives, in our spiritual walk and in connecting with our community. Our investigators work through this process and set up goals”.

“My future goals have expanded. I want to continue to strive…to learn more about finances. I look forward to investing more in my everyday living. This course has helped me to stay focused on growth, health, and general well-being,” said Sherrill. “As a graduate and now an official alumnus of the program, I appreciate The Salvation Army and thank them for accommodating the 9th graduating class so graciously”.