Program UP helps single mom, kids escape life of poverty

March 28, 2018

Brittney Papike believes the Uplifting Parents Program helped her escape a life of poverty.

Over the next five years, the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) wants to test if Papike, a Rapid City single mom of two kids, is right. LEO will conduct a randomized controlled trial study to prove if, and how, this Catholic Social Services-led program moves single parent families like Papike’s out of poverty.

“Programs of this nature have the power to move the needle on poverty,” said William Evans, co-founder of LEO. LEO’s mission is to reduce poverty and improve lives, and Evans is excited to develop a research design for Program UP to measure its outcomes and evaluate its ability to reduce poverty.

CSS created the Uplifting Parents Program, nicknamed Program UP, in 2014 with help from a coalition of about 20 non-profit agencies in Rapid City, said Natalie Lecy, director of Program UP. Since then, Program UP has worked with 38 single parent families to achieve their educational goals and has seen 23 single mothers graduate from the program after receiving degrees in highly marketable career fields, including education, medicine and business. One of them is Papike, who knows from firsthand experience that Program UP works.

“It’s been a big journey,” said Papike, who recently graduated from the South Dakota State University School of Nursing. She is now employed as a registered nurse in Rapid City and able to support her family – a four-year old son and an 11-year old daughter – without public assistance. “Doing something so big all by yourself is hard,” she said. With a financial stipend provided by CSS and emotional support from her Program UP mentor, she didn’t have to.

Program UP helped her pay childcare costs and also afford a prep course to study for her nursing boards. “I didn’t have to take out so many student loans, and it helped a lot with my children,” she said. “But talking with Natalie and meeting with her twice a month was big. Just talking with someone and having someone to evaluate things and get things off your chest was so important to my success. She just calmed me down, kept me on an even level. I guess just her having that faith in me just made me believe in myself even more.”

Program UP helps single parents get an education so they can find a skilled job, earn a livable wage and get their families out of poverty, Lecy said. “The families we work with have demonstrated tremendous grit and are more than ready to take advantage of any opportunity to assist them towards a better life,” she said.

To learn more about Program UP or to apply, contact Natalie Lecy at 605-348-6086.

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