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Systemic Change: Increasing Impact through the Getting Ahead Program

Updated: Jun 26

In the heart of every underserved community, you can find remarkable individuals ready to embark on a transformational journey to overcome the situations and circumstances that have situationally and generationally held them back.

The Systemic Change Initiative is a core component to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Archdiocese of Galveston Houston's mission to promote the dignity of people, alleviate suffering and distress, and address those adversarial conditions through systemic change. 

The three-tier Getting Ahead Program serves as the vehicle designed to take people to the resources they need to achieve greater resiliency and overcome social, emotional, and financial obstacles.

"I was drawn to the program after seeing the overwhelming need to do more to address the root causes of poverty.  The more I learn , the more I realize how little I know about facilitating lasting change." —Mike B., Getting Ahead Program Volunteer

The first phase of the program is a 16-week series of virtual classes led by facilitators. These sessions become the beacon of hope people often need when navigating through difficult situations. Each session increases a participant's resilience to survive and overcome the barriers that prevent them from improving their own lives. Once participants complete the program, they receive their graduation certificate during the official graduation ceremony held each spring and fall.

After stabilization and graduation from Phase I, participants are able to enter Phase II: the Getting Ahead Graduate Program. This six-month journey provides participants with the opportunity to become matched with a program mentor who is able to more personally guide them through the process of assessing their resources and capabilities to move towards self-sufficiency.

"The facilitators help the investigators build resources towards self-sufficiency. After completing the program, the graduates are endowed with tools to transform their lives, contribute their wisdom of poverty to those connected to them and in the community. " —Valerie W., Getting Ahead Facilitator

This unique approach fosters systemic change through a combination of introspection, resource-building, and community support. Once the graduate completes six months of acquiring robust financial education and engaging in deeper discovery, they become alumnus, phase III of the program pipeline. Unlike phase I and II, phase III does not have a start and stop date. It is a continuum that enables participants to become subject matter experts and ambassadors in their own community!

"The Getting Ahead Program is more than an educational initiative; it is a lifeline for those trapped in the cycle of poverty." —Vincentian

Transformative Power of the Program

Alumni participants are endowed with tools to transform their lives and can contribute their wisdom of poverty to those connected to them across their community.

The ripple effect of this transformation is profound. Alumni become advocates and role models within their communities to inspire others and foster a sense of solidarity and collective growth. Program success can be attributed to the shared experiences, mutual support, and genuine connections built throughout the process.

The importance of this program cannot be overstated, as it not only transforms individual lives but also strengthens the fabric of our society. As we continue to support and expand such initiatives, we move closer to a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

"It was a blast being in those sessions. I learned a decent amount of great information. I appreciate what you do and hope that God continues to bless all of you. Hopefully there are more opportunities for people like me to join the community and possibly become a facilitator." —Getting Ahead Graduate

"The life-changing journey to gain develop self-efficacy and achieve greater stability is actually a continuum," the Society's Chief Program Officer, Val Senegal, explains to program investors.


Established in 1871, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is a 501(c)3 faith-based organization with a mission for members to grow spiritually through person-to-person service in our community. The Society serves 10 counties throughout the greater Houston area through a network of 54 parish-based chapters ("Conferences"), more than 1,700 volunteers ("Vincentians"), and a food network of localized pantries. Assistance is given to neighbors in need throughout the Galveston-Houston area through its Home Visit Program, Food Network, Clothing Vouchers, Resiliency Programs, and Disaster Response.



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