Kay Goodman says
she used to have quite a chip on her shoulder.
"I felt people were putting me
down," she recalls. "When you're poor, a lot of people you deal with
don't know you and don't like you. I was angry that I was poor and couldn't get
out of it. I felt that was the legacy I was giving my children."
Goodman is a participant in the Monroe
County Circles Initiative, an anti-poverty initiative,
at the South
Central Community Action Program in Bloomington.
Through Circles, she has achieved some of the most important goals, including
getting her start in working to help others who are poor.
Throughout her life, Goodman has sought to escape generational poverty. She grew up in the small town of Bloomfield, Ind. Her mother divorced her father at a young age because of his addiction problems, and this left the family in more difficult economic circumstances.
Kay's mother strove to improve the family's situation. While working as a nursing aide, she went to night classes to become an electronic technician. For 31 years, she commuted from Bloomfield to Bloomington daily to work at the Sarkes Tarzian TV tuner and parts plant to support her family.
"I believe my mother instilled in me at a very young age that this isn't all there is," Kay Goodman said.
Kay eventually had two daughters of her own, Heather and Haley. To support them, she worked many jobs over the years - cooking at restaurants, cleaning hotel rooms, working at a greeting card company and telemarketing, among others.
"I ended up a single mother after divorce," she said. "I always worked two jobs - a regular job to pay for the house and a second job for shoes and clothes and other things they needed."
Goodman said she hasn't always made the best decisions in her life, especially early on, but she has for many years tried hard to find opportunities to escape poverty and propel her daughters in the same direction.
She went through a particularly difficult time eight years ago, when her younger daughter Haley turned 19 and moved out. At the time, Kay, at age 49, struggled with working long hours and coming home to an empty apartment.
"The thing about poverty is you are isolated," Kay said. "I was working 12, 13, 14 hours a day, and was still poor and felt so isolated. I didn't know what I was going to do."
Goodman heard about the Circles Initiative through a friend, and after a while decided to apply to become a Circle Leader. A Circle Leader is a participant who strives to become financially self-sufficient through a series of steps, including attending a 16-week training to increase educational, financial and social resources and being matched with Circle Allies who offer continuing support.
Goodman was accepted and matched with David and Roberta Mank. David is director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. Roberta is a pharmacy tech at IU Health Center.
As part of the Circles process, Goodman became friends with the Manks, meeting with them at least monthly and together attending weekly Circles community meetings. She shared with them her goals, plans, challenges and successes. The process of support and encouragement hasn't always been easy, she said, but it has changed her life in many crucial ways, especially in how she interacts with others as she works to make a better life for herself and her family.
"The camaraderie, networking and talking without feeling judged -- (the Manks) volunteering to be in my life, not because they had to, but because they wanted to - it has made all the difference in the world," Goodman said.
One of Goodman's greatest challenges was going back to get a college degree. She had been out of school since graduating from Bloomfield High School in 1975. Initially, she struggled with subjects like algebra, which she hadn't used in many years, and chemistry, which she had never before studied.
"After the first semester of algebra, I told David and Roberta, I didn't think I was going to make it," Goodman said. "I was scared I would fail."
Goodman found a great tutor, Penny Buhr, and started meeting with her every day. One of the oldest students in many of her classes, she enjoyed getting to know other students at Ivy Tech. Kay persevered and soon excelled. She even became an officer of Phi Theta Kappa, which requires a grade point average of at least 3.5. She graduated with honors with an associate's degree in Human Services.
Kay's daughters and friends, including the Manks, joined her to celebrate at the college's commencement ceremony in May 2014.
"I was very emotional and ecstatic," she said. "When I saw all my friends and family, I just kind of lost it."
Kay is considering continuing her own education through pursuing a bachelor's degree at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and has received a $12,000 scholarship toward that cause.
"I'm the first generation in college in my family," she said. "That's the legacy I hope I'm leaving."
Kay's daughters have both joined the Circles Initiative. Haley has recently been accepted into the Hair Arts Academy. Heather's daughter, Asiah, a high school senior, has been accepted to Ball State University, which she will attend through the 21st Century Scholars Program.
"My goal is to help others," she said. "That's what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. If you can make people feel good about themselves and touch them in a positive way, you can help them start working on changing their situation. I want to live a life of meaning and purpose."