Volunteers from Strive2Thrive say families graduating from the program in March had one trait in common during their interviews: a burning desire to better themselves.
"Many of them were in despair, they were hopeless, they felt like there was no way out of their situation. You can just see the desire to get out of the situation but not know how to get out of poverty," says Strive2Thrive Ausha Jackson. "They've gone through 16 weeks of long training in which they've identified barriers that have kept them in poverty, kept their familes in poverty and what it's going to take to get them out of poverty."
Thursday night, the Isler family â" along with a dozen others like them â" celebrated graduating from the Strive2Thrive program and getting one step closer to getting out of poverty.
"Right now we're both unemployed: My wife is in school and I'm presently looking for work. Strive2Thrive helped us with certain resources that we didn't know of," says Michael Isler.
The Strive2Thrive families developed a future plan for themselves over the last 16 weeks and shared their stories. Many talked of dropping out of schools because of early pregnancies and being incarcerated; now many want to someday own their own home and own a business.
All of the stories talked about conquering poverty.
"When you look at their faces now you can see the transformation: They are excited, they have faith in the future now," says Jackson.
Michael Isler, who specializes in manufacturing, says he wants to get a shop. Andrea Isler says she wants to finish studying medical assistance at Albany Tech.
With the help of volunteer "allies" at Strive 2 Thrive, they say they'll reach their goals.
"With me in school they taught me about a program that I can get in to help me get some things done by buying books or help with tuition and uniforms and different things," says Andrea.
The Islers say other families in poverty can also work towards a better life like they are.
"You've got a lot of hidden resources that you may not know about, so never be afraid to ask for help," says Michael.
Volunteers say Strive 2 Thrive isn't just a program, it's a way of life.
If you are interested in helping the organization, contact the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.