THE BREAKS (aka Welcome to the Thrive Project)
Thank you for your interest in the Thrive Project.
In 2005, after a lifetime in cities, starting in Albany, NY, then ten years in New York City and fourteen in San Francisco, I moved to Turners Falls, one of Massachusetts’ poorest towns with one of the state’s highest high-school drop-out rates. My plan at the time was to make my way through graduate school at UMass and then move to Providence, R.I. But along the way, I fell in love with this little town.
Turners, like so many small towns across America, is struggling to regain vitality after decades of economic struggle, and, slowly, it’s starting to get there. But still, it’s a place where the streets are littered with the remnants of the most common dream of escape in rural America today, dead scratch tickets.
Early on in my life here, I met a bunch of amazing young Turners natives who were languishing in low-pay, low-skill jobs after barely finishing or not finishing high school. I’d ask them what they wanted to do with their lives, and they’d tell me their dreams – of enrolling in culinary school, going to college, opening a shop – but never with much hope in their voices.
While government agencies and nonprofit organizations offer what they can, in this era of budget crunches, such entities focus on people in obvious crisis. Especially in semi-rural areas such as ours, there are very few directions for people who are “getting by” to turn to find ways not just to survive, but to thrive. The Thrive Project offers just that. Whether connecting a Thriver with a mentor or guiding a Thriver through a grant application, The Thrive Project helps young people move toward meaningful careers.
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Everyone needs a break. My biggest break came at birth, after which other opportunities just fell into place: I had two supportive, middle-class, educator parents. For some people, a break comes from a parent; for others, that break may come from a teacher or a coach. We all know which breaks we’ve caught and which we’ve missed.
In 40 years of city-living, I’ve met my share of people who’ve had a tough go of it. But Franklin County “kids” (as my 45-year-old self can’t help but see them) have had fewer breaks than most. Unlike a lot of city kids, they don’t have a variety of opportunities to help them make their own breaks. Once people turn 18 and magically go from child to adult, so long as they “stay out of trouble,” (have a roof overhead and any job at all) there’s really not much help society has to offer.
Too many young adults feel they have very few choices. Many of them have dreams and abilities that are worlds beyond their low-skill, low-pay jobs. They just didn’t excel – as teenagers – at school, at taking tests and following rules.
Now, as adults, hardly any of them see how to even begin pursuing those dreams, using those abilities, in no small part because they haven’t caught breaks, their friends haven’t caught breaks, and their parents, the first generation to really be hit by the degradation of our public schools, never caught breaks either.
Thrive can’t make Thrivers change their lives, but it can offer them that first break. This can be as simple as a place to go to talk to someone who listens and has some tangible solutions to offer about making life/career changes. It can be tutoring for the GED or SAT.
Community members can help Thrive give someone a break by volunteering to take a Thriver over to GCC and walk her through the bureaucratic maze; by helping someone write a resume and cover letter; by helping someone find a tech school and fill out the application or figure out how to pay his back taxes before he can apply for college financial aid. Thrive can give a break by matching someone with a mentor or an apprenticeship, or by providing a grant or a loan of as little as a few hundred dollars so someone can start a business or take his or her first college course. And you can help offer that grant or loan and a world of other breaks by donating time, goods, services, or, of course, money to Thrive.
Please help Thrive give these able and eager young adults a break, give them those proverbial bootstraps so they can start making opportunities for themselves, and become active members of their communities.
What breaks have you had, what breaks have you gone out and found, made for yourself? What breaks can you help others catch? Come in and tell us about them, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Thrive Project’s immediate goal is to help some worthy individuals live better. Our greater goal is to serve as a pilot program for others like it in isolated areas around the country. I’m dedicating my working life for the foreseeable future to those goals. But for Thrive to thrive, we need your participation as we develop programs and open our doors. It all depends on the breaks we get as we get Thrive up and rolling. Can you give us a break? We’ll put it to very good use. Can we give you one?