Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Key Points

  • Andre and Takara Knighton have been married for 15 years. 
  • The couple was facing some challenges in their relationship, and Elevate turned out to be just what they needed!
  • Learn more about Elevate at https://foropportunity.org/elevate/

Andre and Takara Knighton stumbled across the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Elevate relationship enrichment class purely by accident. But it was a wonderful accident! The couple was facing some challenges in their relationship, and Elevate turned out to be just what they needed. Check out this Q&A for more.

Q: Please introduce yourselves – your family background, kids, jobs, school, work, where you live, etc.

We are Andre and Takara Knighton. We have been married for 15 years and produced two beautiful and funny children. We currently live in Georgia but have lived in other states before deciding to reside here. We both have done social work in different fields, but after the pandemic we decided to focus more on our multimedia company, Vizion Image Media.

Q: How did you first learn about Elevate?

Takara learned about the program randomly at a county office. She was registering the car tags and while she was waiting saw a flier for Elevate. So she went home and started researching more about it.

Q: What prompted you to want to attend Elevate?

We were in a tight spot in our relationship. We had been allowing little things to bother us and had been a little distant from one another. We kind of lost ourselves in just life and slowly began to lose our friendship. So when Takara saw this flier and did her research on the program, we decided to just go for it. We went with expectations to try something new and honestly have set dates for ourselves that would also be a building block for our relationship.

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate, visit:

foropportunity.org/elevate

 

Q: What was your experience like in the class? What did you learn?

 The class was eye opening. We saw couples who had been married for 20 years to newly married couples that also had the same stories. It was encouraging to know that there are couples—especially couples married longer than us—that just needed a little extra help to learn to reconnect. We learned how to look at each other again, but in a new light. The major thing we learned is how to stop and refocus our negative thoughts back to the positive. Sometimes when you have been with someone for so long you tend to focus on all the negative attributes of the person instead of the good qualities that brought you two together. Also, you forget to tell your spouse how much they mean to you and remind them of why you feel in love. Now we are telling each other almost two to three times a week what we appreciate about one another.

 

Q: Of the seven core relationship skills and qualities for success, which one did you find most impactful for your own relationship?

Definitely “Enlighten.” We weren’t dealing with each other in a healthy manner because we only focused on the past. We forgot that people can change and likes and dislikes can change. We still looked at each other as the 20-somethings we used to be. So we had to become enlightened about who our spouse was again. We had to discover our passions and loves separately and apart. We had to be more sensitive to each other’s feelings and listen. We had to rediscover “us.”  

 

Q: What are some reasons you can think of for other couples to attend Elevate?

We believe that everyone should experience this class because it does open your eyes to some questions that you may never have thought to talk about before. You can be married for two years or 25 years and still never think to ask your partner some of these questions. This class allows you to explore a new part of you, and the you in your relationship. People change over time and so does your relationship. So instead of ditching it because you changed, learn how to deal with the new you in your relationship and discover how you both can make the changes work.

 

Q: What are your future goals and plans?

 We plan on dating each other more and trying new things together. We definitely want to travel overseas again and take our kids on their first overseas adventure so they can learn about life and other cultures.



 

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Key Points

  • The Georgia Center for Opportunity has partnered with the co-op to offer Elevate, our relationship enrichment class, to the families it supports.
  • Depending on a family’s needs, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op can provide up to 75% of the groceries they need in any given month, on a monthly basis and help with utility bills. 
  • Prior to the pandemic, the co-op received an average of 6,000 assistance requests per year. Today that number has more than doubled. 

The Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry provides food and financial assistance to the Grayson, Snellville, and Loganville communities, and is one of six cooperative ministries throughout Gwinnett County that share this mission. The Georgia Center for Opportunity has partnered with the co-op to offer Elevate, our relationship enrichment class, to the families it supports. In-person classes are currently in the planning stage. 

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op aims to “honor and uphold the Lordship of Jesus Christ by reaching out, in His name, to our neighbors in need. To the end that our clients will find encouragement, love, and hope and that the Kingdom of God will be manifest on Earth.” 

“We accomplish this by satisfying two hungers: the stomach and the heart,” says Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op. “We understand that not only what we do, but how we do it accomplishes much more than we can ever imagine.” 

According to Laura, the why behind the co-op’s mission is simple: “Because God says everyone is important and we get to believe Him.” They put their mission into action by creating an authentic, supportive community that values every individual it serves.  

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers,” Laura says. “There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 

Depending on a family’s needs, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op can provide up to 75% of the groceries they need in any given month, on a monthly basis. They also assist with utility bills, up to $300 total in a 12-month period. 

The co-op has a strong relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, in addition to the support it receives from the community. Families who receive assistance have access to fresh vegetables, dairy products, meats, and a host of other nutrient-rich foods. For those who receive food stamps, the co-op provides non-food necessities such as laundry detergent, feminine products, and diapers–all items that can’t be purchased with food stamps, but can still be costly for families in need. 

Rebirth in the time of COVID

According to Laura, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op recreated itself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, it served families once a month. Now, they’ve built the resources to offer bi-weekly assistance. This has alleviated stress for many families impacted by the pandemic and its economic impacts, including job losses, business closures, and inflation. 

Prior to the pandemic, the co-op received an average of 6,000 assistance requests per year. But when COVID hit, their requests skyrocketed, more than doubling to 15,000. With the help of the Gwinnett County government, the USDA, the National Guard, and the community’s generosity, the co-op was overwhelmed with support so they could continue to provide assistance even in the face of rapidly growing demands. In both 2020 and 2021, the co-op gave over one million pounds of food per year. 

Even though demand isn’t quite where it was at the height of COVID, Laura says it’s beginning to rise again due to inflation and the current costs of gas and necessities. 

Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers. There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 


Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op.

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers. There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 

Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op.

GCO partnership: Looking toward the future 

In addition to food and financial assistance, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op plans to offer families access to GCO resources that help them strengthen their families and relationships. This approach will take the ministry toward a more holistic program. The team here at GCO is currently working to nurture our relationship with the co-op until they return to their building this fall. 

Laura says she’s thrilled to expand the co-op’s offerings to further assist the community.

“We’ve spent years developing that relationship [with the community],” she says. “Now, we want to offer that foundation to organizations such as GCO and others in the community that have something to offer the people we serve in a space that is comfortable for them.”

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Key Points

  • Elevate program: couples are enrolled in eight 90-minute sessions that cover the seven core skills and qualities for relational health.
  • Elevate is available free-of-charge to couples.
  •  Elevate classes provide — an opportunity for couples to practice better intentionality, to understand their partner better, and how to prioritize their relationship.

Today, couples face both internal and external pressures like never before. Many couples who weren’t struggling before the pandemic are struggling now, while those who were already in crisis now face an even worse situation.

Thankfully, there is a resource for couples in Georgia. It’s called the Elevate program and it’s a core part of the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) mission.

Through the Elevate program, couples are enrolled in eight 90-minute sessions that cover the seven core skills and qualities for relational health. Given the need for a remote option, workshops are available both in-person in 12 counties in Georgia — including Gwinnett, Henry, and Houston counties — and virtual workshops where couples can participate from home.

Topics covered include how to:

  • Be more intentional and focused in your relationship
  • Better manage stress in your life
  • Strengthen your connection with each other
  • Develop a greater appreciation for one another
  • Spend more quality time together
  • Deal with differences in healthy ways
  • Build support for your relationship and family

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate in one of the upcoming workshops, click here.

 

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate in one of the upcoming workshops, click here.

One of the best parts is that Elevate is available free-of-charge to couples. This is made possible through a federal grant through the Fostering Relationship and Economic Enrichment Project (Project F.R.E.E.).

There is a common thread in what Elevate classes provide — an opportunity for couples to practice better intentionality, to understand their partner better, and how to prioritize their relationship.

“I appreciate my spouse more as a result of the Elevate experience,” shared one class participant.

Another said, “The biggest thing we gained were ways to refocus the positivity in our relationship even when conflict arises and life is difficult.”

Still another couple shared that Elevate enabled them to communicate on a more intimate level: “We still have layers to work through but the Elevate experience has given us fresh insight to navigate our path forward.”

Here are a few of the reasons couples chose to enroll in Elevate:

  • Create better intentional dialogue between partners
  • Create a closer connection through communication
  • Meet other couples similar to us
  • Tips for understanding my partner better
  • How to handle stressful moments in a relationship

“What I love about Elevate are the techniques that they teach the couples when dealing or handling stressors in their life,” said Katherine Greene, healthy families program manager for GCO. “I also love the way it taps into helping couples understand how their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can influence their decision making and physical health. Elevate is extremely engaging and makes every interaction applicable to the lives of the couples, their family, and community.”

Don’t miss our upcoming family Breakthrough event

Don’t miss our upcoming family Breakthrough event

family breakthrough

Don’t miss our upcoming family Breakthrough event

Transforming broken relationships into flourishing families

Key Points

  • Many people are experiencing broken relationships at home, work, and school.

  • Helping people have healthy relationships will result in nothing less than full community transformation.

  • The event is on Thursday, August 25, from 10:30am to 12:30pm at Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta in Duluth, Georgia.

Family makes us stronger

The world is filled with negative headlines right now. These headlines reflect the real pain we’re all experiencing in our communities. Today, more than ever, we are experiencing broken relationships at home, work, and school.

In dating relationships, Pew Research tells us that nearly half of U.S. adults say dating has gotten harder for most people in the last 10 years. As for relationships at work, Gallup finds that 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased rates of divorce.

We know that a key way to restore community health is by fostering healthy relationships. These relationships are the bedrock of our culture. When they suffer, we all suffer. Helping people have healthy relationships will result in nothing less than full community transformation.

That’s the theme of an upcoming Breakthrough event focused on family and relational health sponsored by the Georgia Center for Opportunity. The event is on Thursday, August 25, from 10:30am to 12:30pm at Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta in Duluth, Georgia.

At the event, we will do a deep dive into the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Choices (ABCs)  of individuals and families and how those relate to relational and, more broadly, community health. You don’t want to miss it!

 

Speakers at the event include:

  • Kristen Hypolite, COO of Every Woman Works
  • Dr. Natalie Looney, Principal of Summerour Middle School
  • Michael Doyne, Parent Instructional Coordinator at Lilburn Middle School

  • Ian Rowe, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

Family makes us stronger

Each of us has within us the option of having the right attitude will drive our behavior which allows us to make better choices. When you leave the session, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what family formation means and the reason it is important.

We are inviting everyone to attend, whether you represent a school, a church, a government agency, institution of local government, or nonprofit, we want you at this event.

 

My HOPE for individuals and families in 2022

My HOPE for individuals and families in 2022

My HOPE for individuals and families in 2022

mowing grass with dad

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Margaret Mead

 

As we reflect on 2021 and think about what we want for the new year ahead, I thought that it would be beneficial to share what I see families are missing, and might consider starting now and continuing into 2022.

Care for ourselves and others. Let’s all agree that we should move from being a spectator to being an active player. Recent headlines reflect our youth need us to show up for them unfortunately some of us are missing the boat. Begin by taking care of yourself. You can start with simple tasks like walking and/or drinking more water. 

We need to care for others by volunteering within our own neighborhoods.  It’s been my personal experience many public libraries need volunteers, or maybe you can donate to your local food bank. We need everyone to be involved in changing the landscape of what is around us.

The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.

Community makes us stronger

Community. When our family relationships are stronger our community is better and our state is better. Change always starts with us. 

For example, have you ever noticed when people first move into a new neighborhood they make the effort to keep their lawns manicured?  But then, it never fails there is THAT one house whose yard is in disarray. That house can make the value of all the other homes lower because it is not well kept. However, instead of complaining about the neighbor’s inadequacies, see how you can help. Is there a young person who can mow the lawn?  This is beneficial because you are teaching a child how to help others and the neighbor gets their lawn mowed. Now the neighbor and teen are connected into the community. Plus, the neighborhood is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, which brings home values back to where they should be. Everyone wins! Being a part of a community makes us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. 

Collaboration. Think about how you can add value to a local organization utilizing your gifts and talents. Believe it or not, this is why you were given your gifts!

At Georgia Center for Opportunity, we collaborate with a community of folks in the areas of education, employment, and family. Read more about our work and how its Not for self but for others” at foropportunity.org.

 

Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

The COVID-19 pandemic has put stress and strain on peoples’ relationships like few other times. In this challenging environment, the Georgia Center for Opportunity has stepped up to be involved in a new series of relationship enrichment classes called Elevate for Couples.

Below is a Q&A with Curtis and Tonika, two graduates of the Elevate class who share their experiences and takeaways.

Q: Please introduce yourselves—your background, current work, and family life?

Tonika: We are a mixed family of five children. We’ve been married for two years in June and we dated for three and a half years. We met through a mutual friend, my son’s barber. When I met my husband, he had custody of his four children from a previous marriage. So he brought four to the team and I brought one. It took me a while to get over the whole shenanigans of the kids, but we were friends.

What won me over was just watching him with his children just take care of the spiritual, education, just everything. I watched him do this effortlessly. He has a heart of gold, because most people would run away.

For work, I’ve actually been a nurse practitioner for about two years. I’ve been a nurse for 16 years. We recently moved to the Atlanta area about almost two years ago now. We come from middle Georgia in Macon and Milledgeville.

Curtis: I did accounting for 15 years and then I transitioned about three years ago into chaplaincy. So I’m a chaplain for a hospice company here in Atlanta.

Q: Heading into the Elevate class, what were some of the most significant challenges and stressors in your relationship?

Curtis: For me, the biggest thing was striving to navigate through a blended family. I was hoping to gain some insights on how to navigate that in a healthy way. That was really, really important to me. The class did offer me some insights that I was able to extract. Marriage within itself is a challenge, coupled with children is another challenge. But in a blended family, they don’t teach you that in school.

Tonika and I are similar in our love for Christ, in our career aspirations, and things of that nature. But our biggest struggle is the blended family component when it comes to the children.

Q: What parts of the Elevate class did you find most useful?

Curtis: What was most useful for me was the opportunity to reflect upon myself—just the place and space that I am in as an individual. That matters a lot. Because at the end of the day, I have no control over what comes out of somebody else’s mouth or the actions that they choose to display. But I do have complete control over how I respond and the things I choose to do. So each session afforded me the opportunity to just reflect—what are my growing areas? What am I missing? What are my blind spots?

Q: Of the seven core relationship skills and qualities for success, which one did you find most impactful for your own relationship?

Tonika: For me it was “engage.” It’s easy to forget about engagement with a busy day-to-day life. For me, it helped remind me of what’s most important. You have to make it a priority or it’ll just be on the list.

Q: Overall, how did Elevate improve your relationship?

Curtis: It afforded me a better understanding of Tonika. Just pausing enough to even consider her perspective. I think that was big for me. I honestly try to do that and she’ll be the first one to tell you I get it wrong a lot. I can make my mind up about something really fast. I’m very flexible, I’m very optimistic. One of my excuses is that I don’t make excuses, I make adjustments. I make it work. That’s just how I’ve been raised. But I can’t automatically project that onto Tonika. I have done that in the past, and it’s 100% wrong of me. Now, I consider her thoughts, her framework, and her narrative.

Q: What are your future goals and plans?

Tonika: I want us to continue to build, to continue to grow, continue to understand each other. Just grow individually and collectively in marriage. Always seek to better ourselves and our marriage. There is no cap to that—we’ll never get it right all the time. You always need to be building upon that.

Curtis: Balance and then a healthy life. I definitely want to continue to see personal growth. I often tell my kids that the only person I’m in competition with is striving to be a better person than who I was yesterday. I also want balance. I’m at that place where everything can’t be a priority. A lot of things that used to matter to me don’t really matter anymore.

The Elevate program is being provided to couples across Georgia thanks to a federal grant received by the Fostering Relationship and Economic Enrichment Project (Project F.R.E.E.).

Project F.R.E.E. is a collaboration between the University of Georgia Extension System and community partners across Georgia. Our aim is to create communities where children are safe and thrive. To do this, our campus-community partnership initiative is mobilizing a network of organizations who connect, learn and collaborate to integrate healthy marriage and relationship education into existing community-based services across Georgia.

 

Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level!

Empower Yourself: Empower your relationship through empowering yourself
Lay the Foundation: Intentionally committing effort to lay the foundation for a lasting relationship
Enlighten: Sharing intimate information with your partner to enlighten each other about your relationship
Value: Value and respect the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship
Attach: Cultivating and maintaining friendship with your partner                                                     Tame: Cultivate strategies to manage your differences in healthy and safe ways                           Engage (and Wrap Up): Engaging social support, community ties, and sources of meaning