Food Buildings Building Community

A story from a Getting Ahead class. 

Activity Goal:

This activity will demonstrate some of the ways we can use our natural resourcefulness, planning, and communication skills. It will also reinforce the mentality of Getting Ahead, that we are better at working towards goals together

What you will need:

  • One Getting Ahead class.
  • 30 pieces of dry pasta per group.
  • One marshmallow per group.
  • One yard of tape per group.
  • One timer set for 15 minutes.


Step 1: On a rainy Wednesday night at Grace Episcopal Church, serve a dinner of mac & cheese, garlic bread, salad, and hot cocoa to a group of investigators from the 22nd Getting Ahead class.

Step 2: Then, divide a Getting Ahead Class into groups of four. It’s important to have a mix of different people with different strengths and preferences. Explain to them that they will be building the tallest free-standing tower they can from the materials provided. Start the timer.

Step 2½: When you realize you’re one short of even groups, allow a Staying Ahead participant who was here to help with dinner to join in – she will run over with gusto.

Step 3: Watch the groups grow increasingly frenetic with a flurry of ideas and giggles while constructing their tower. Answer questions like “Are we allowed to break the pasta?” and smile as they come up with construction ideas you’d never thought of.

Step 4: With one minute to go, commiserate with one group as half of their structure falls over, with no time to rebuild.

Step 5: Call “Time’s up! Take your hands away. Away!” Take photos of the groups celebrating their achievement. One tower will be noticeably larger (refer to step 4.)

Click to expand.

Click to expand.

Step 6: Discuss as a group. Ask how much planning they did, and what that looked like. Ask how well the plans worked out. Ask if anyone had plans they wish they’d voiced. Guide the conversation from the micro-scale to the macro about the importance of planning and communication in our day-to-day lives. Talk with the group about the difference between having a general goal, and having specific steps necessary to achieve that goal. Reinforce the idea of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound.

Step 7: Later, reflect on how much the group has changed over the last 15 weeks of Getting Ahead classes. Notice how each group listened to everyone and allowed everyone to contribute to the process. Remember how in the first few weeks of class, no one would even talk, but now, they enjoy communicating with each other and feeling heard.

The Getting Ahead program allows participants to analyze and break the cycle of poverty that’s affecting their lives. The course provides a safe, supportive environment in which these issues can be discussed. Program graduates leave with a sense of newfound confidence that they can navigate the dominant culture, change their mindset, and forge a path to success. They are supported through Staying Ahead, a program to maintain relationships and form a network of mutual reciprocity.

Getting Ahead is currently recruiting for our 2024 classes in Delaware and Henry counties. If you or someone you know is ready to analyze and break the cycle of poverty that’s affecting their lives, apply here.

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