Tri-Cities PREP Aids Welfare Exodus

By Elsa Cisar –
Social Services Consultant

Under the creative leadership of Lieutenants Rick and Laurette Fisher and A/Captain Jackie Vaughnes-Smith, the Tri-Cities, Calif., Corps’ Pregnancy Resourcing and Empowerment Project (PREP) is moving into its third year.

The program, which is for individuals who are pregnant or parenting, offers three phases of classes in math, English, science, social studies, typing, office skills, computers, and career application. The Professionalism course deals with personal presentation, effective speaking and listening skills.

As important as all of these are, perhaps the most important are the Discussion and Life Basics classes, which help students develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and work on issues such as budgeting, prioritizing and goal setting.

Michele Smith-Jefferies is the program administrator. A behavior modification approach is used to encourage participation and achievement. PREP students earn “Funny Money,” which can be spent to buy clothing and other donated items at the “PREP Store” one day each month.

Free child care and transportation are provided. PREP has one outing or social event per month, at low or no cost to the students. Weekly voluntary Bible studies are well-attended.

A/Captain Smith speaks passionately about the PREP program: “There are a lot of programs out there attempting to help people get off welfare by offering classes,” she says. “Ours is different because we take the extra step of getting involved in people’s lives.” A lot of emphasis is placed on changing attitudes, motivating, and follow-up. This year’s program will include working with a placement agency as well as having a mentoring component.

Ninety women have participated in the program since its inception in 1995, with 25 achieving “success.” What is success? Completion of one or all of the phases, progression to junior college, employment, leaving destructive living situations or leaving the AFDC rolls. Apparently, PREP is successful!And providing hope to individuals is something The Salvation Army is good at!

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