An Ohio couple brings their message of hope to the Ozarks, helping families break the cycle of poverty and incarceration by beating the odds.
In 1991, Ron Tijerina was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn't commit. As his wife Cathy raised their two children on the outside, the couple realized that there was little support for the families of men in jail.
After Ron served his 15 years, the Tijerinas began the RIDGE Project, a non-profit organization that aims to strengthen families touched by incarceration. As the program grew, they also established TYRO Dads, a curriculum that teaches participants how to break the cycle of poverty, incarceration and dependency.
Their goal is not to provide families with a second chance, but to give them a quality first chance, and let them leave the trauma of their past behind.
Their programs act as the bridge away from a culture of poverty or incarceration that a person has been living in for most of their life.
"That's all they've known as they've been raised in that culture," Cathy said. "So the TYRO program steps in and helps them recognize who they are, how they got where they are, who they want to be and gives them practical things to be able to cross that bridge into a different culture and establish a new legacy for themselves and their children coming after them."
The RIDGE Project and TYRO programs place a lot of emphasis on the family unit.
There are obvious victims of a crime, but the group the Tijerinas call the "forgotten victims" have to live with the labels too.
"They are actually pushed into the shadows because society has deemed them disposable," Ron said. "So our job is to teach society and help them become more aware and more conscious that there is no such thing as a disposable family, that every family is worth saving. It just takes that type of care and compassion to want to give back."
Ron and Cathy have detailed their experiences and transformation in their book, "High Five: Love Never Fails".