I became a mother to a beautiful daughter at the age of 17, and dropped out of high school to become a full-time mother. Being a teenager I felt confused, out of place, and alone. By 1993, when my daughter was 2 years old, I gave birth to my son. My mother was my only support during these difficult times. Then at the age of 24, she passed way and I lost my only support. This was a big misfortune for me. I became depressed and my self-esteem went downhill.
My personal life went downhill too. I tried to keep everything together for me and my family during these tough times, but the grief and depression got the best of me. I endured major health issues and I almost ended my life. Despite those challenges, I became a Certified Nursing Assistant and was able to support my two children. Our budget was tight, but I was able to manage my money without being on any public assistance.
After enduring three of the hardest years of my life after my mother’s death, I thought things couldn’t get any worse. But I was wrong. My rent jumped from a barely manageable $700 to over $900 a month. This sudden increase didn’t fit within my budget. I could no longer afford my apartment, and my family became homeless. We were placed at shelter in Dorchester. First, I hated myself for being in this predicament. Then I looked at this as an opportunity for my family to move forward and become stable and self-sufficient once again.
While I was living in shelter, someone from Project Hope came to pass out a flyer about their programs that helped families move out of poverty. One of those programs was their Adult Education Program. I had no idea what I wanted for my future, but I knew my first step was to go back to school and finish my education. From the first moment I went to Project Hope, I realized there are people in this world that care for and believe in me. This was something I never had and it was very important to me.
I have a learning disability — making it hard to stay focused and on task. I gained the confidence and skills to overcome those obstacles. Project Hope became the family I needed to exceed to my fullest potential. I became a woman of strength! It was a long journey with lots of detours but I worked very hard with my tutors and teachers. In February 2012, at the age of 39, I earned my GED. After achieving that success, I know if I put my mind into working hard I could accomplish anything. I enrolled myself at Bunker Hill Community College to study Human Services.
I enrolled in FII in 2013 because I valued its innovative narrative around families uplifting themselves and the approach to poverty, in which ‘the power and potential of low-income families’ is realizing how you can make changes — and these changes allowed me to come together and access the resources I needed to thrive. Since I embraced this mission and immersed myself in my community, I have experienced the positive effects produced from working with others — whether I am helping myself to develop skills or make connections, I sees these relationships as a chance to improve the quality of life of both others and myself.
My life is now full of goals. I have so many things I want to accomplish. My plan is to become a Case Manager and continue to advocate for homeless families. I would like to help others just as so many have helped me.
Out of everything I have accomplished, my biggest accomplishments are my two children — Jacky, now age 25, and Miguel, age 22. My daughter finished college and now is working as a Dental Assistant. My son will re-enter college in the fall of 2017. Last but not least, on May 20, 2017 I will graduate from Bunker Hill Community College with my Associate’s Degree.
I realize failure is not an option for me anymore. I will accomplish my goals for myself, but more importantly, for my children. Education is the key to our future.
I am very involved within my community. I hold the position as a FII/Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Fellow and provide care, support, and counseling to individuals dealing with various issues so that they can become more self-sufficient. Arranging community gatherings, helping families access the resources they need to make changes to their daily lifestyle, and providing emotional support to families are among the most important roles I play.
I am also an ambassador for Project Hope, an advocate for Homes for Families, and a Diamond Leader for Union Capital, Lastly, I am an ambassador for the Boston Alliance for Community Health to emphasize the importance of quality health care.
These are difficult jobs but it is satisfying just to see families get connected with their community. I enjoy the mutually beneficial relationship between myself and them in which through helping them, I also learn about myself.
I have made great strides. When I joined FII, I came in with three end-goals: “get an Associate degree in human services, pay off debt, and own a home.” Since then, I have successfully completed my first goal of paying off all of my debt, an accomplishment I attribute to the FII resources, and with their collaboration of the Warren Buffett Foundation — through which I was awarded funds to pay off my credit card that I had been unable to for years. I am so grateful! My second goal will be complete in 10 days, when I earn my associate’s degree from Bunker Hill Community College at the end of May 2017. Although I have not been able to purchase a home, I am maintaining my financial stability so that, one day, I can.
Outside of my immediate goals, I have also acheived two of my biggest accomplishments ever — I have reached a 10-year mark of sobriety and have seen both of my children graduate high school, one of whom also graduated from college.
My achievements have not been without failures. I have encountered many obstacles that have tested me, such as struggles with substance abuse, homelessness, and domestic violence. These have been challenges to overcome — tools that have helped me succeed in my life because they have encouraged me to value more in life and provided me with a more holistic perspective on personal hardships. I now see FII and other community organizations as family from which I get support and guidance.
I have also realized my self-worth and potential. I recognize that finding value in my uniqueness has allowed me to excel.
Through my engagement with FII, I acknowledge that the support and belief within their families is a unique model to FII, and it has inspired me — that I can overcome anything if I just believe within myself and be as determined as I can be. I cannot emphasize the gratitude I have for FII and the Warren Buffett Foundation for the support I have received. Now, I can be more focused, becoming more empowered and utilizing the tools I need to be self-sufficient financially. I have been blessed because living on a fixed income was not easy to endure, but now I am working for Bay Cove as a Residential Counselor.
I hope to use my experience and understanding to continue to reach my many goals. For example, I hope to play a larger role in domestic violence intervention by helping men and women have more courage to stand up to their attacker. In general, however, I would just like to continue helping those in need and making a difference in the lives of my family and others.
In reflecting upon my own progress, I would advise anyone the following: If you have a dream, never put yourself on hold. Reach for the stars and make your dream a reality. It’s not about always receiving; it’s about being proactive, giving back to your community, and making changes in your lifestyle for a better future for both yourself and your family.