How does EMPath define participant “success”?

You’d have to ask our participants themselves. Each person has a different answer to this question, because success looks different for everyone. There is no “one size fits all” definition of success – nor is there a “one size fits all” path to economic independence.

On Saturday, August 17, EMPath celebrated the conclusion of the Massachusetts Learning, Employment and Asset Program (MassLEAP), with a total of 33 people completing the program. And while participants accomplished many impressive goals, more importantly, each individual was successful in their own way.

MassLEAP, a five-year program funded by the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), brought EMPath’s economic mobility coaching to residents of the Braintree, Quincy, and Watertown Housing Authorities, as well as to Boston residents receiving rental vouchers through the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).

In this coaching model, mentors support participants in achieving education, career, family, health, and financial goals. This approach – used across all EMPath programs – is rooted in the idea that no two journeys out of poverty look the same. Mentors recognize that all areas of life intersect and respect the complexity and individuality of each participant.

“I see somebody who got a job for the first time equally successful as someone who finished an associate’s degree,” says Charmaine Lujares, Senior Coordinator of MassLEAP. “Maybe their personal barriers were a little different. I see all of my families as successful, because all of them had individualized problems that they needed to overcome to get to where they are today.”

EMPath mentors also recognize that progress is about more than just external outcomes. Many MassLEAP participants said their mindset and self-confidence changed significantly, giving them newfound tools to handle stress and continue achieving their goals even after the program ended.

“When I started, I had a giant load of past debt,” one participant shared. “I was told to file for bankruptcy. I felt responsible for my debt. Through the encouragement and unwavering support of [my mentor] and EMPath, I have slowly overcome my situation. I still have some of the debt, but I have the confidence that it will be paid and I’m glad I have been and continue to be responsible for myself.”

These changes don’t happen overnight – or even over just a year or two. Key to MassLEAP’s success was the long-term, consistent support it provided to participants. True lasting change is much more likely over many years.

“When you’re talking about families who have had histories of trauma, you need a program that’s consistent, that’s reliable, and that’s willing to stand through the midst of all different kinds of challenges,” says Charmaine.

One element of the MassLEAP program was an escrow incentive, which helped participants save money. As their income increased, participants’ rent also went up (as is the case for anyone receiving MRVP vouchers or Section 8 housing). The difference between the new rent price and the old one was then put into a savings account. This was a major incentive for participants.

While EMPath has long known that consistency is key, the success of MassLEAP and of other long-term programs like EMPath’s Career Family Opportunity validates that knowledge. Many MassLEAP participants said they wish the program could continue so that others in their community could benefit from it.

“I feel that this group of program mentors has been so encouraging, so nonjudgmental, so interested in all of us and in our success,” one participant said. “It’s great to be treated with dignity and respect and to know that your mentor is truly on your side. I wish everyone could experience this program.”

Congratulations to all MassLEAP participants!

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