SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The path to earning a family-sustaining wage often starts at Step Up Savannah, a non-profit organization that has a multi-level approach to lifting people out of generational poverty.
The organization’s Chatham Apprentice Program offers soft and hard skills training, providing not just preparation for, but also access to better jobs.
"Our team also brings in employers and we set up interviews,’’ Step Up Savannah Executive Director Jennifer Singeisen says of the four-week Chatham Apprentice Program. “Our focus is we want to bring true value to our participants.’’
"To see people come out, and now they’re employed in a career more than a job, and they’ve got the ability to build some credit,’’ added Step Up’s Director of Financing, Henry Criss, “it can be life changing, but the first day of work is not the finish line for the WTOC Community Champions at Step Up Savannah.
They also help clients set up bank accounts, help navigate public benefits applications, and work to change the system that allows generational poverty.
"If we look at public benefits as Band-Aids, the system change is surgery, it’s the hospital,’’ Criss said. “That’s what affects long-term change so that generations ahead of us will be able to build wealth.’’
In partnership with the City of Savannah, Chatham County, and the school system, Step Up maintains a community presence that extends beyond a four-week course.
“We do some other advocacy work where we work with neighborhood leaders,’’ Singeisen said. “We start to grow leaders in the neighborhoods we serve so that they can then be a voice throughout the community, because when you have a specific lived experience, you’re going to see things and have a perspective that other people just aren’t going to have, so, it’s really important to have that voice at the table.”
Step Up Savannah’s diverse board consists of city and county officials, business leaders, representatives of other nonprofit organizations, and individuals from the communities it serves.