In this photo Tracy shows one of her creations that she sells.



"We concur with the conclusions offered in the 2009 Oregon Assessment Report that the Circles® model continues to be strongly endorsed, is creative and flexible. We add that with expanded attention to contextual and structural barriers, the theoretical basis in social capacity building is sound. We further note that the leadership and staff have a realistic, valid and practical view of poverty. For instance the leadership defines poverty and prosperity as the joint responsibility of societies, institutions, communities, as well as individuals. It is noteworthy that the leadership is committed to apply results from the formative evaluation to guide training and curriculum revision and expansion...”

Professor Mary Jane Collier, University of New Mexico (2012)




Circles impact:

"I am so grateful for Circles and its lessons for life! For me, Circles is all about celebrating the greatness of the individual and one’s purpose of putting back into life more than is taken out. It is coming to understanding the magnificence’s of passed hardships, the nobility of meaningful work and developing courage to embrace the future. Having the opportunity to my make wholesome friendship and access years of friendly wisdom gives hope…" Richard Shirey, Muncie, Indiana

Circles and economic development:

"It has become clear that the biggest barrier to economic development at the community level is the lack of qualified workers. So far, the best and maybe only program that works to employ the chronically hard to employ and has the critical elements is Circles®." Mark Lautman, Co-founder Community Economic Lab

Circles helps people find their public speaking voice:

"A barely literate man came with his wife to support her as a Circle Leader. He was scared and uncomfortable at first. As he attended more meetings he became more confident. After going through the program he got up in front of 70 people and spoke articulately about his situation."
Todd Lare, Bloomington, Indiana

Circles changes the way people see themselves:

"Anytime I think of Circles, I think family. Circles has helped me see the big picture of things. I'm now a homeowner, I have paid off most of my debts and I have savings for the first time. I now give back to Circles by facilitating classes and I look forward to one day being an ally myself". Brian Gallamore Circle Leader Bartlesville, OK

Circles changes the way agencies function making the more effective:

"It is difficult for agencies to shift their mind frames. They tend to work in 'silos' doing program work and it is difficult to change the mindset to understand poverty in a comprehensive light, but once they do, they all want to get involved."
Megan Shreve, Gettysburg, PA

Circles changes your assumptions:

I got involved because I wanted to help. Circles has made me think about people living in poverty in a very different way. Before this, I can honestly say I would have looked at someone who I thought was poor and crossed the street, making a whole lot of assumptions about them. After sharing meals and listening to some of the Circle Leaders, I realize that those were just that... assumptions. Now I'm involved because I'm ready to challenge others and to challenge a system that keeps people in poverty based on simliar assumptions. Bruce Ellison Circles Ally Albuquerque, NM

Circles puts people who want out of poverty in charge of their own destiny:

"The key strength of this model is that Circles Leaders are at the CENTER of the program. This is essential to planning and it is vital to include them at each step along the way of the process."
Chris Porter, East Syracuse, New York

Circles puts people together for life changing opportunities:

About 6 months ago, I was introduced to Circles and a Circles Leader who was an experienced bookkeeper. I hired her. Circles gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I am part of a happy ending that is really just the beginning. Hiring someone from Circles is more than filling a position. It is giving someone a chance to grow out of poverty. Rene Stapf Small Business Owner, ABQ, NM

A Circles Story

By Suzanne Feldberg

I first met Jose Martinez at a Circle's meeting. I was impressed by the man who was all smiles and who seemed to know everyone. Jose's confidence and pride are apparent in all that he does. This is the true sign of a successful Leader and Jose Martinez has traveled a long road to get to the place he is now - the place where he knows he belongs, on a road out of poverty through education -and Circles® is helping him to stay on his chosen path.

Born in Mexico, Jose Martinez's family moved to a suburb of Chicago when he was 3. As a teenager, he felt disconnected from his suburban environment.  He sought connection by joining a gang at age 15. This is when, as Jose tells it, "My life began spiraling down."  Soon after, Jose was put on probation and sent to a boarding school in Wisconsin. Again he felt alienated. He left the boarding school and moved back to Chicago where he began to party and drink, but nothing seemed to work right for Jose. He wasn't happy; he was unsatisfied with his life.

As years passed, Jose became a heavy drinker. Through alcoholic behavior and after working numerous unsatisfying jobs, he thought he might find happiness if he pursued his passion: acting. This allowed him to work a little in independent films in Los Angeles and to perform off Broadway in New York City. But he was still broke. So at one point, he bought a ticket from New York City to Hollywood, and with the 300 dollars in his pocket, he set off to follow his dream. The bus ride was long and after two and a half days, the bus stopped in Albuquerque for a three-hour refueling layover. Hot and tired, Jose decided to check into a motel to shower and rest before continuing to California: as Jose puts it, "that's when I really screwed up."  Through drunken episodes and bad judgment, Jose found himself stuck in New Mexico. He couldn't hold a job, nor could he raise the money to get to Hollywood. He became homeless, and now he was in and out of jail. He was alone.

Over time and with the support of a new found partner, Yolanda, Jose made Albuquerque his home. But his problems with alcohol continued.   So, in his pursuit to "get his life together," Jose sought counseling at Balanced Paths. He sobered up, and started work with the Albuquerque Opportunity Center. That's where Jose met Beth Brownell. She told him he would be a perfect fit for Circles®. Jose listened to Beth, went for an interview, and became a Circle Leader. He notes that he was most impressed by the way Circles® focused on his present path rather than his past. He learned that the support of Circle Allies, Yolanda, and his higher power are most important to staying on path.  At last, he found a community of support that he could be involved in. Now he knows he's hanging out with the right crowd!

Jose's Circle Allies supported his goals toward an associate's degree by encouraging him and helping him define SMART goals. Now a student pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Communications at the University of New Mexico, Jose is most thankful that Circles® believed in him as a leader and for giving him the opportunity to lead in so many ways.

Almost 2 years after being introduced to Circles®, Jose continues to be a Circle Leader and with Yolanda by his side continues to volunteer with Circles®, "We try to be involved as much as we can. They're my new family, they welcomed us with open arms."  Jose continues to pay it forward. "I just want to lead by example. If you want it you can get it but you have to have a plan and Circles® helped me make a plan."















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