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Ignite helps end generational poverty with spark component
A single mom in her early 30s arrives at her office job with a smile on her face and a confidence that is evident to anyone who interacts with her. She is knowledgeable, friendly and encouraging to her coworkers. You would never know that a year-and-a-half ago she was coming out of a substance abuse treatment center with no hope and a negative outlook on life.
It was during her time at the recovery facility that she met Patricia Vasquez, the Chief Operations Officer of Ignite Community Solutions (Ignite), an organization that helps individuals in all walks of life find their true purpose and overcome generational poverty.
“When I met her, her heart and spirit were broken,” Patricia says. “She knew she had made poor choices and the thought that she could never be a good mother to her children. It consumed her.”
But Patricia wasn’t going to let her believe that for long. Ignite’s program, that they aptly call “Clear Path,” offers participants transformative courses that help them go from disengaged and overwhelmed to empowered, resilient and self-reliant.
And that is exactly what Patricia helped this woman do.
“I wanted her to realize that God still had a purpose for her,” she says. “No matter what her story was; no matter what her circumstances were; she was given a chance to believe in herself.”
The moment she began to believe the words that were being ministered to her, she started asking, “Why can’t I achieve my goals and find my purpose?” Patricia says the moment her student realized she did have a purpose and could stand on her own, she was “a force to be reckoned with.”
“I used to ask her, why do you think the rearview mirror is small? Because that’s your past. The windshield is much larger because that’s your future,” she says. “She latched onto that little saying and that’s her philosophy for life now.”
The single mom has now been clean and sober for more than a year, has been promoted twice in her career in healthcare, and terminated her required probation early.
“The beauty of it all is that she’s now paying it forward by teaching other people around her what she’s learned,” Patricia says. “These people knew what her life was like before. She says, ‘look at me now. If I can do it, so can you.’”
“What I found missing from these other programs was the spark necessary to ignite people to take those skills, use the support and go forward on their own.”
It's stories like these that prove to Patricia and Chief Executive Officer, Clarence Lowe, that their program is working to help San Antonians make a better life for themselves.
Ignite’s curriculum was originally born out of a workforce and personal development course Clarence created for his organization called Star Force.
“We were helping individuals find their purpose and find what they wanted to do in life,” Clarence says. “The three instructional pillars of the course were purpose, promotion, and perseverance. The approach proved so successful, I thought it might be an answer to the problem I was so passionate about—generational poverty.”
But Clarence wanted to do more than just fill transactional needs for those in crisis. He wanted to give men, women and children the chance to find their “spark.”
“Most social service programs help people develop skills and build a support team so they can take the next step forward,” Clarence says. "While skills and support are necessary, what I found missing from these other programs is the “spark” critical in helping people take ownership of their change and sustain gains.”
Clarence says that the spark component cannot be ignited without building relationships. He says the connections between people are what helps the individual truly grow.
“One of the few things I learned from my anatomy class in college is that at every connecting point in your body, you also have something called a ‘growth plate,’” he says. “God designed the body so that growth is dependent on connection. This physical truth reveals a profound truth in life.”
“You can have a revelation about what your purpose is, but if you’re not connected to the right people, you won’t grow in life.”
Because of the recent pandemic, connections to former and current students has become even more important. Instructors like Patricia have been inundated with texts, emails and phone calls of people who are seeking wisdom and relational bonds during these uncertain times.
“My middle school-aged students are texting me saying, 'You gave us hope, when can we do a Zoom class?'” Patricia says. “So, this morning, I had a Zoom class for two hours.”
These students have become a part of what Patricia calls the “Ignite Family,” and she has seen the relational connections with her students effect entire families.
“I get phone calls from parents asking, ‘What have you been telling my child because my child who wanted to drop out of school now wants to go to college?’” Patricia says. “Then I end up mentoring and teaching the whole family. It becomes a dual-generation approach. That’s powerful.”
Clarence believes that changing the thought processes of whole families who have struggled with poverty, drug use, incarceration or any other maladies that plague poverty-stricken areas, will eventually affect whole communities.
“A great philosopher once said, ‘The antecedent to behavior is always thought.’ So, in igniting the spirit and helping transform the mind, we develop individuals who take ownership over their lives and empower them to not only change themselves but their families and communities.”
One way that Ignite has been able to have a greater impact on those who go through their programs, is by teaching through a trauma-informed approach.
“We look at poverty through the prism of trauma, and we give them the psychological, social and practical tools they need to break free of that trauma,” Clarence says. “I think that’s a critical advantage.”
Along with helping bring change to the greater San Antonio area through transformative courses, Ignite is also partnering with local organizations and churches to reach more people across the city. These collaborations have become even more important during the pandemic when traditional classroom courses are not an option.
“COVID-19 has made us look at other areas that we didn’t even know we could impact,” Clarence says. “We were not necessarily in the food-distribution business, but we have partnered with Magda Ministries to feed the homeless downtown. Right now, we’re feeding about 300 people a week."
"We bring meals and a Gospel message to those who want to receive it, and we’re changing lives that way as well.”
People just need the right spark. When that happens, fires break out, lives are changed and communities flourish.
Ignite Community Solutions
11503 Jones Maltsberger, Suite 1220, San Antonio, TX 78216
Pray. Ask the Lord help Ignite have an expanded footprint in the city and larger growth for more impact. Give. As God leads, consider meeting physical needs, like the gift of computers or laptops. Donate. Visit the Ignite 'Community Solutions' website, then click on the yellow button (upper right corner) and give to provide sponsorships for individual cohort classes.