Success isn’t implicit between family members. When a child finds success, both economic or otherwise, that does not naturally transfer to their parents, brothers or sisters. Raising one person up doesn’t raise up everyone – unless it’s done so with commitment and intention, focusing on the betterment of the whole – and that’s what we do.

At WMCAT, we believe the cycle of poverty can truly be disrupted and real social change can take place when you provide programming that takes a holistic approach to the family. To us, that approach is called 2 Generational (2 Gen) Learning. A 2 Gen model focuses on addressing the needs of not only our students but their families as well. By taking a cross-generational approach, we are able to foster economic success from the bottom to the top and creative a culture of opportunity that is inclusive and impactful.

For example, families who have teens or adults participating in our Teen Arts+ Tech Program or Adult Career Training Program have access to services provided by DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services). Adults enrolled with WMCAT already qualify for assistance from the State of Michigan. Upon entrance into our tuition-free training program, they work directly with a case worker from DHHS or The SOURCE, a non-profit partner, ensuring they have the resources needed to be successful.

Our case managers also have a smaller caseload, enabling them to give students more individual attention. Some adults realize they qualify for services they weren’t receiving before and that’s the goal, to increase services and support as our students are planning a new career for themselves. We want to give our families the tools and resources they need to live economically independent and not just survive, but thrive.

Our 2 Gen Learning Model extends beyond the economic needs of a family as well. We collaborate with many stakeholders in the community such as The Salvation Army, Grand Rapids Community College, and Arbor Circle to provide our WMCAT family with access to material goods assistance, college entrance and financial aid coaching, and a variety of mental health services. We understand that in order for a family to rise up, they need to be supported economically, gain financial literacy, develop education aptitude, and receive the necessary social services to maintain emotional stability in the face of challenge.

We are proud to be a learning partner within the Ascend Network, an organization that mobilizes 2 Gen focused organizations. Through the Ascend Network, we have access to a nationwide knowledge base of best practice strategies to help raise families above the poverty line achieving a sense of success and stability. Participating in this network helps us be more intentional in the ways we support and transform the lives of both our students and their parents resulting in better outcomes for the whole family.

Through 2 Gen Learning we are building a community that works to provide resources and self-improvement opportunities for everyone. Many of the services we offer our students have been made possible by a 3-year grant program we generously received from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. At WMCAT, we want to facilitate change from the ground up and make sure no one is forgotten. We strive to reduce barriers to entry in the workforce and will continue work for the betterment of our West Michigan community.