The Stepping Up Process to End Recidivism (SUPER) celebrated its second graduation last week, honoring three women who’ve been committed to the recovery process and out of jail for at least a year.
The yearlong program gives support services after release to women with mental health and substance use issues who were incarcerated at the Forsyth County Detention Center. To go with the ‘super” theme, the graduates donned pink capes as they marched down the aisle to a standing ovation at the Forsyth County Government Center.
“Now that you are a SUPER Woman, we want you to fly to great heights and leap over any obstacles that get in your way,” said Stepping Up Program Supervisor Amber Humble. “You have earned your cape.”
Graduates received their plaques from County Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt, who was instrumental in bringing the program to Forsyth County.
Whisenhunt and county staff congratulated the graduates. Assistant County Manager Ronda Tatum said each graduate put in the work needed to get them through the program.
“Know that we are all proud of each of you and you’ve actually earned this,” she said. “It wasn’t handed to you.”
The graduates included Tiffany Wilson and Sheila McElroy, who didn’t let adversity stop them from being in the program. For instance, McElroy had to face staying in a shelter, health issues, surgery and having no source of income over the last year. She now has an apartment, is receiving benefits and has become the first Stepping Up graduate referred by the Probation Office.
Even though they’re now graduated, the women will still have Stepping Up staff and their fellow graduates to call on if they need support. They were encouraged to become mentors for others.
“You have the tools to make a difference in your lives and the lives of others and our community,” said Stepping Up Peer Support Specialist Pam Goodine.
SUPER is part of the Stepping Up Initiative. It’s based on a national model that County Commissioner Whisenhunt learned about at a National Association of Counties (NACo) workshop. Whisenhunt, who serves on the board of NACo, brought the idea to county staff, who crafted the program, and to her fellow commissioners, who fund the program. It also receives grant funding from The Winston-Salem Foundation and started with an initial grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation.
SUPER is currently working with 16 women who are out of jail, with 10 who are awaiting release. The Stepping Up Initiative also includes the county’s Mental Health Court, a pre-plea treatment program for both men and women, which results in the dismissal of charges for successful graduates.
SUPER currently serves women, but will be requesting additional funding in the county budget for next fiscal year to expand its services to men.
The local Stepping Up Initiative will hold it’s Day of Action on May 29, when staff and participants will plant flowers at the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County.