by Aug 20, 2016Breaking the Cycle

(Photo/ Julie Denesha)

(Photo/ Julie Denesha)

Our students aren’t the only ones who do a lot of learning and growing at The Grooming Project. The students learn grooming, customer service and a whole lot of life skills; Natasha Kirsch, the project’s founder, has learned a few things too.

8-25-16 update: check out this interview with Natasha

Grooming School al 011116This month, as she reflects on the successes of the inaugural class and welcomes a new group of students, Natasha has also been noting what she’s learned about the practical realities of breaking the cycle of generational poverty and incorporating those lessons into Class #2.

Like what? Well, for instance:

Grooming skills are just the half of it – literally. Training in so-called “soft skills”  – personal qualities and attitudes that help people work well with others – is just as important. Coaching in parenting and budgeting skills, too.

It takes a team. The cohort model – a team system in which students lean on, learn from and trust in each other – works.

It takes a village, too.  To be scaled and financially feasible requires volunteers. Lots of them. “I need about 60 volunteers to make this run long term,” Natasha says. “When you think of 60 volunteers to support six to nine people, it seems inefficient, but when you think about how many generations can ultimately be touched? Worth it.”

The hardest thing? Knowing when to cut.  It requires staff, board members and volunteers who can empathize with these women’s lives. Who can be firm about what’s required to get and keep a job, but without judgment. “There are people I’ve had to let go of, and it’s been unbelievably hard,” Natasha says. “But I have no time for negative energy. If you can’t be a positive influence, I can’t have you around.”

The most important thing? Earning trust. “These women have faced constant obstacles, and they have to trust that what we’re asking of them is in their best interest,” Natasha says. “If we act like ‘a boss’ it’s just more of what they’ve experienced all their life. If we treat them with respect and unconditional love, that gets them through.”

The best thing? Making a real difference – today and tomorrow. “I can get off food stamps, move out of public housing and into a home in a good neighborhood,” says Christina. “It’s good for the kids to see education is important,” says Jessica. “My daughter wants to be a teacher. She’ll be a good teacher,” says Danielle. “Anything is possible if you set your mind to it,” says Shay.

Class #2 – we’re ready for you!