Changing careers, examining a budget, overcoming our daily obstacles -- it can be difficult. We all need trusted mentors and allies to point us in the right direction and give us the confidence we need to head that way. United Way of Northwest Indiana's Level Up program offers just that type of support.
Throughout Northwest Indiana, the Level Up program pairs participants with a navigator to provide connection, suggest community resources, and advocate for them while they work to change their lives, understand their finances, and build the future they are hoping for.
Erin Stojic, Level Up program director, describes Level Up as a way to break down obstacles and expand participants’ opportunities.
“The Level Up program provides one-on-one support for participants,” Stojic said. “We create custom pathways and help to eliminate barriers that keep people from being financially stable.”
Primarily focused on supporting low-income workers who are looking to build a better life for themselves, Level Up participants are Northwest Indiana residents over 18 who are currently employed and meet the income requirements.
“Our program is really designed to support hardworking people who simply earn too low a wage to make ends meet. Despite working sometimes two or three jobs, they often are just one paycheck away from crisis,” Stojic said. “But, they are above the poverty line and likely are not able to access traditional social services. This group makes up more than 1 in 4 households here in Northwest Indiana.”
To date, Northwest Indiana’s Level Up program has successfully helped many individuals overcome those barriers and gain greater stability over their financial futures.
“114 participants have completed some form of training and/or certification and obtained a better paying job,” Stojic said. “70% of our total participants have successfully completed the program, and we've even had seven clients purchase their first home.”
Acting as more than just assistance, the Level Up program works one-on-one to ensure that participants have access to all needed resources our area has to offer.
Tierra Gamble, a Level Up participant, praises the Level Up program for giving her so much to be thankful for and looking forward to.
“The Level Up program is a complete blessing to me,” Gamble said. “Before, I was so stressed out, down, and depressed. Then someone told me about this program. They have led me to so many different resources. I feel like I can breathe now. Before, I thought, ‘What do I do? How do I find help?’ Then boom, here they are.”
Gamble is now working to be a registered nurse. The Level Up program supported her as she became a medical assistant, provided support with budgeting, and even helped her access childcare and automotive assistance.
“I feel like I’m getting my foot in the door,” Gamble said. “Level Up team members are helping me with budgeting. I also have a business idea that they are going to help me with. They are helping me get my credit right, and have helped me find childcare.”
Stojic and her team recently received a grant to expand Level Up even further throughout Northwest Indiana.
Anyone interested in learning more about United Way’s Level Up program and to see if they qualify for enrollment, should visit the Level Up website here.