Get our newsletters

Happy to Be Here: Graduates with grit celebrate success


The Bucks County Opportunity Council presented its 2024 Economic Self-Sufficiency Graduation last week as about 200 supporters gathered at The Warrington to cheer the graduates on.

All of the 18 graduates for 2024 have experienced poverty and a host of other heartbreaking roadblocks to survival. After hard work and with the help of many people, they have jobs, homes and cars and they are a super proud group.

Since 1997, 403 households and 1,114 people have gone through the program. The average household income at enrollment has been $17,828. At graduation, the average household income is $46,387.

Transportation was Alivia’s challenge. A Wheelz2Work car from the Opportunity Council helped her get to work as a nurse assistant. Part of the support Christina received was coaching to get her drivers license; the rest was honing her skills to get a job.

Allison was overwhelmed, on the brink of failure and not able to manage tuition at Bucks County Community College and her monthly expenses. Counseling staff at BCCC were able to help her manage her budget and graduate. Now she’s determined to buy a home in the future.

Christopher lost one job after another as businesses closed during the COVID pandemic. The sole supporter for his two sons, he could barely provide food and his car needed repairs. Now he’s free of government subsidies and he’s providing for his family on his own.

Jacqueline started with a short-term housing assistance program before joining the ES group. She’s working at a full-time job and loving it.

Amanda struggled to make ends meet — two of their children have significant special needs. With her husband moving up in his job and Amanda working on weekends, they developed a budget that worked and Amanda is saving for emergencies.

Jennifer was in recovery and had to deal with several barriers to self-sufficiency. Now she’s working and in her own apartment and she was able to complete a recovery coaching program.

Lena, a veteran, needed a car and a job. Through ES she now has both, and a wardrobe for the job. She’s employed at a veterans’ affairs office.

Letitia was in her last semester at BCCC, studying early childhood education, when she sought help to pay her water bill. She finished her associate’s degree and found a job at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. She’s saving and anticipating continuing her education

Kiara was living at the Bucks County Housing Group Shelter when she applied for Opportunity Council assistance. She had started a part-time security guard job but hadn’t received a paycheck. With the ES help, she found housing and acquired a scholarship to study criminal justice. Now she’s enrolled at Strayer University. She’s working full-time as she finishes her bachelor’s degree.

Ryan had escaped an abusive relationship and filed for divorce when she first met an Opportunity Council coach. She was relying on child support payments and struggling to meet expenses. And she had medical conditions that limited her ability to work. She found work in a medical office and she is earning enough to sustain her family.

The pressure of full-time attendance at Bucks Community College as she raised three boys after an abusive relationship led Nicole H. to seek help. The Opportunity Council helped her secure a scholarship and a Salute to Mothers Award helped pay for her final semester. The Opportunity Council helped with payments for the boys’ school sports and Wal-Mart and Giant gift cards helped supply family needs. Nicole H. is attending Temple University’s Fox School of Business this spring to study accounting.

Another Nicole was holding part-time jobs when she applied to BCOC. She was able to earn an associate degree in small business management and she continued to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Strayer University, where she was a straight A student. And she bought a home.

Noelle’s baby boy was one month old when she met her ES coach. It had been a difficult pregnancy and health issues continued. BCOC was able to assist with housing and baby expenses. Noelle is working and returning to school at Stockton University and she hopes to acquire a degree in social work.

Quamae was in a short-term housing program when she joined the ES program. She will graduate from Bucks with an associate’s degree this spring and she is determined to pursue a career as a dental hygienist.

Sandy-Lyn was splitting days and nights with family members, with no home of her own, when she joined the ES program. With BCOC’s help, she found a full-time job and worked as she finished her degree. She’s moved into her own apartment and has purchased a car — free of government subsidies.

The Opportunity Council helped Tammy, a lawyer, secure standing with the Connecticut Bar, where she earned her degree. She delivered for DoorDash as she searched for a job and finally found a position as a contracts administrator and is hoping to give back to BCOC as she moves forward.

The Opportunity Council’s main goal was to help people come out of poverty. In 1997, the board of directors determined to go a step further and help people achieve economic sustainability. They set up standards to measure achievements like transportation, child care, scholarships, credit availability and developed programs to help individuals get those things that they needed.

“If a college course was $1,200 it might as well have been a million dollars,” Executive Director Erin Lukoss said this week. “They just couldn’t afford it.”

The Economic Self-Sufficiency Program aims to get people over the humps preventing them from succeeding and stays with them to ensure success.

One of the most successful programs is matched savings. ES participants are expected to open bank accounts that enable participants to leave the program with money in the bank. With Matched Savings, the deposit is doubled when a participant reaches $1,000.

“We love that program,” Lukoss said. “It’s been a great motivating resource.

After all, she said, “Money is power.”

It’s all about sustainability.

A second grade teacher from Buckingham Elementary School, Nadine Sobusiak, has been chosen one of the Phillies 10 All Star Teachers. She will be honored at the annual Teacher Appreciation Night celebration on Friday, May 3 when the Phillies take on the Giants at 6:40 p.m. More on Ms. Sobusiak in the May 9 Herald.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.