This ministry spotlight is near and dear to our hearts, for many reasons. First of all, it takes place in Nashville, Tennessee, the location of one of our main offices and home to many members of the Enable team. Secondly, this ministry is one that perfectly embodies our mission of Changing Lives by Serving Those Who Serve. And last but certainly not least, this particular story involves two of our very own team members.
UpRise: Creating Lasting Change
UpRise Nashville is a career development program based in Nashville, Tennessee that primarily serves those who are impacted by financial poverty. UpRise takes a holistic approach to helping the program participants, called Leaders, by individually assessing their opportunities, their barriers, and providing a structured environment to dismantle the things in their life that are holding them back. Through education, coaching, and community, UpRise helps Leaders forge a path to a career with upward mobility. Founded in 2017 as a ministry of West End Community Church, this organization is doing some of the most important work in our city.
Carole Peterson, executive director of UpRise, wasn’t always in the ministry space. Prior to moving to Nashville, she was a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, California. It was this life experience that inspired a passion in her to change the system that so often robs people of opportunities and severely limits their options. It was clear to her that in order to create lasting change for people in difficult circumstances, it was vital to look beyond the immediate need. “Instead of asking how to help people in poverty, we asked a different question: “How do we help people in our community get out of poverty?” Together with the leadership and support of West End Community Church, Carole set out to create a sustainable way for equipping and training people with the desire and drive to pursue a career – they just need the opportunity and the resources.
Through this approach, UpRise has helped over 60 Leaders (and counting!) find a career path, while creating real and lasting community in the city of Nashville. UpRise connects people of varying life circumstances who otherwise wouldn’t have met. The program creates opportunities for bridging those social gaps by means of practical skills, training, mentorship, and relationships.
The training aspect of UpRise is extremely intentional and specific. As part of the program, the staff and volunteers spend the entire first 6 weeks getting to know each Leader in the class – they learn about their skills, passions, work style, etc. to help them choose a career path that they will succeed in. This intentional process creates longevity for their career path and sets the Leaders up for success, instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach. Each Leader is assigned a Coach to help them through their training and certification/education portion of the program. Beyond that, the entire team is available to everyone – UpRise has built up a strong system of support, so everyone always has someone to call.
There is another fundamental aspect to the UpRise model. Each Leader is also connected with an Ally. An Ally is a volunteer whose entire role is to provide community, encouragement, support, and relationship for the Leaders during their time at UpRise and as they navigate the start of their professional career. They spend time together during the week, meeting for meals, coffee, walks, etc., supporting each other in mutual encouragement, about both work and life. Twice a month, Family Dinners take place, where all of the Leaders and Allies gather together for a meal and fellowship.
UpRise in the Age of Covid
The entire foundation of UpRise’s model is built on relationship, personal connection, and community, so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, UpRise had to really pivot. The program had been successful in-person, and thrived off of the personal interactions, but with the pandemic, things like Family Dinners and hands-on, in-person training weren’t possible anymore. The UpRise staff, volunteers, and Leaders had to really dig deep to make this work in a virtual world. Like most things, those early days of 2020 were full of uncertainty and confusion for the UpRise team, but nevertheless a new class of Leaders started their program in April of 2020.
This is where Enable’s personal connection comes in. God’s hand is all over this story…
Meet Tyler. When the pandemic hit, Tyler lost his job. He was a new parent, and needed to figure out a way to take care of his family going forward. His previous job landscape had been sporadic, and he felt that he “didn’t have anything he was working towards.” Tyler’s involvement with UpRise began when his mother was connected with Jen Seger, the Director of Care at another local Nashville church, Christ Presbyterian Church. Jen met with Tyler, learned about his situation, and referred him to UpRise. In Tyler’s words, “her willingness to meet with a total stranger and offer such love and care is what started me on a path that is larger than she may realize.” Through a series of timely connections and intentional people, Tyler found himself in UpRise’s first virtual class in April of 2020. As Tyler immersed himself in the program, it became clear that he both enjoyed and had a knack for IT.
Now, meet Alan. Alan is a technician at Enable Ministry Partners and a member of West End Community Church. He initially heard about UpRise through church and had felt a tug on his heart to volunteer with the organization for some time. One Sunday, West End hosted a ministry fair, and Alan felt God lay it very strongly on his heart to finally go check it out. Alan connected with the ministry because he felt that it was something he would have benefited from as a young man. “God really laid it hard on my heart that I needed to go talk to those folks. It’s time for you to give back. I’ve blessed you, and I want you to go do the same for others.” So, Alan met Carole, and promptly signed up to be an Ally.
Alan began assisting more and more with the Leaders pursuing a career in IT. He would help with the online training camp, brought in recycled computers for thestudents to take apart and learn on, and simply offered his own advice and expertise from the field. Alan got to know Tyler and quickly saw his technical talent. But what immediately struck Alan was Tyler’s honesty, kindness, and obvious desire to serve others – a perfect fit for an Enable team member. With Enable hiring, Allan encouraged Tyler to apply for a position at Enable upon his graduation from UpRise. After considering his options and a lot of prayer, Tyler did apply – and he got the job!
Two lives were changed in this process. Tyler took a leap of faith, sacrificed time to invest in his future career, put himself out there, learned new skills, and got a job (that he enjoys immensely) that supports himself and his growing family. Alan would also say his life was changed by UpRise. The isolation of Covid was hard on Alan, and like many others he craved connection and friendship during that period of time. The UpRise community provided him a group of people who were struggling together and leaning on each other. He listened to God’s call on this heart to volunteer his time, and in that God provided community for him. “The UpRise class did more for me during that time than I probably did for them.”
The point of it all is changing lives (by serving those who serve). We serve churches like West End Community Church so that they can serve and support ministries like UpRise so that lives – like Tyler’s, can be changed! And along that chain of events, lives are touched all along the way…. Alan is a perfect example of that. This is a truly beautiful picture of the body of Christ, and the blessings that come from listening to God’s call in our lives.
If you or someone you know could benefit from participating in the UpRise program, visit or share https://uprisenashville.org/getstarted for more information.
UpRise provides an amazing opportunity to serve your community and meet some incredible people. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, including Ally & Coach positions, and more! If you feel compelled in any way to get involved yourself, we encourage you to visit https://uprisenashville.org/volunteer to learn more! Or, feel free to email the UpRise team directly at [email protected].