Meet Cierra Walker…
The first thing you notice about Cierra is her dazzling smile. That smile is a reflection of how much her life has changed in just a few short years. While still in her early 20’s she had total responsibility for the grandparents who had raised her, and both of them were slipping into dementia and could not be left alone. Cierra happened to see an online advertisement for Certified Nursing Assistant training at New Hope. She found day care for her grandparents and was accepted into NHE training. Immediately Cierra had to begin juggling home life, being on time for classes, not making excuses for anything, and full commitment to the program. What made it all worthwhile, Cierra says, is that “the instructors were so good to me and challenged me.” CNA training was hard for Cierra as she wanted to make excellent grades, yet some of what she was taught she had already been doing for her grandparents. She found her classmates encouraging, and has kept in touch with some of them. Along with CNA training, Cierra also completed Microsoft Office training, which gave her skills she uses often. Cierra’s grandfather had retired from Delta Airlines and told stories about his airline travels; because of his dementia, he told the same stories over and over. His memories and meeting NHE board member Chris Collins, a senior executive with Delta, inspired Cierra to consider a position with the airline. She was accepted and her training went well: she was certified as a flight attendant. Now she puts her punctuality and medical training to good use in her new position. This young woman, a proud 2014 graduate of New Hope who never flew before in her life, now travels the world. She often speaks to various groups about her experience in CNA and Microsoft training. She even returns to the Center for encourage trainees. Her grandparents are in full-time care and Cierra looks forward to the future with her newborn and fiancé. At our 2017 annual breakfast fundraiser, Cierra was honored with the Founders Award.
Learn more about her story here.
Meet Nicholas Holmes…
Nicholas’ life began in hardship, both physically and emotionally, and stayed that way for years. At age nine he saw his mother commit suicide and had a conflicted relationship with his family: as he says “I was passed around.” Fortunately his grandfather, a strict man, taught Nicholas many skills, such as cooking, doing laundry and yard work, as well as a great work ethic. The chores made Nicholas not afraid to try anything but kept him so busy he had no time to make any friends. Then things turned bad. For 20 years Nicholas led a life of crime, including selling drugs, and became homeless. He had two children, but did not have the focus or the means to be a good father.
Dramatic change came in 2013 when a perceptive parole officer saw potential in Nicholas and recommended he apply to New Hope. Telling his story during the intake process, Nicholas felt understood and in a safe place. In STRIVE training Nicholas realized he had to change not only himself, but the way he saw other people, and to learn his true capabilities. He says “I heard people with harder stories than mine. They made me think of the phrase ‘I had no shoes but then I saw someone with no feet’ and I was pushed to be accountable like never before.” He learned etiquette, how to dress professionally, and how to carry himself with confidence, as he says, “like a walking billboard.” He made lasting friendships at New Hope, a huge bonus for someone who felt friendless for so long. Nicholas stays in touch with STRIVE instructor Walter Evans, who he sees as a father figure and whose own story inspires Nicholas to stay focused and motivated.
After STRIVE graduation Nicolas went on to Construction Ready training. This was a good fit as he had a natural capacity for the work, thanks to that head start with his grandfather. Finding a job was difficult at first for Nicholas because of all the years of unemployment, but finally he landed a position as a carpenter-mechanic. He really loves his job and is taking classes to become a journeyman.
Looking back, Nicholas says he lost relationships with people in the same destructive lifestyle he used to be in. Yet, he knows that they have to find their own way out, and that he can’t help everyone. “My advice to others” says Nicholas “is to set small goals and build up–it will boost your morale. Believe in yourself, and encourage yourself, and no victimizing statements, as they they hold you back.” Nicholas got married and bought a house a year ago; for the first time ever he is living an independent and self-sustaining life. And a new baby is on the way! Nicholas’ smile tells it all. Life is totally different now.
Meet Chameka Johnson…
Chameka Johnson began her journey with The Center for Working Families, Inc. (TCWFI) this past March. At the time, Chameka, a native Atlantan and the mother of two young boys was underemployed, working part-time at a neighborhood convenience store. At the tender age of seventeen Chameka’s life took a turn when her grandmother, her guardian who cared for her and her three siblings passed away. Fused with her financial challenges and emotional stressors, Chameka and her family struggled to secure stable housing (bouncing from family member to family member). As the oldest, the responsibility of maintaining their household fell on Chameka. She soon began her career in customer service at a fast-food restaurant where she stayed for three years.
In search of a new start, Chameka browsed a job site where she learned about our six-week customer service training program, Generation focused on helping individuals between 18 – 29 enter into companies that value growth. Her plan was to complete the program so that she might have the qualifications and navigation skills needed to move into a solid career in customer service.
Through Generation, Chameka honed skills in the areas of problem solving, cash-holding, and complaint de-escalation techniques, among other things. She was given an opportunity to interview with one of our employer partners, Concessions International where she was hired full-time, earning a 40% increase in past income with company provided benefits. She plans to work her way through the ranks at Concessions into management. We know she can.
Chameka’s story is a testament to the strength many of our participants possess, hard-working individuals who are looking for opportunities to advance economic success for themselves and their families.
Meet Monifa Taylor…
Monifa Taylor a former track star found herself just 200th of a second shy of making the 1992 American Olympics team. She has been running since she was seven years old. With her father as her coach, he helped her land a track scholarship to the University of Florida where she studied economics. In her early years, Monifa believed she would live her life as a stellar track athlete until she was injured during a meet in Germany. She flew back to the United States landing in Alabama where she worked a few jobs to make ends meet.
Interested in a new start and wanting to put her undergraduate degree to use, in 2001 Monifa moved to Atlanta. That year she landed a job with SunTrust Bank while working toward her real estate license part-time. Just one year after working at the Bank she left the company to pursue her passion for real estate and development full-time. She grew intrigued by purchasing property. Overtime she transitioned from sales and investing to property management.
Just a few years into her career, Monifa’s business felt the early impacts of the 2008 world financial crisis. Monifa and her boyfriend would also welcome their first child just three years later. Money was slow and bills mounded. As a retiree, Monifa’s father moved with her and her boyfriend to help out. Grateful for the assistance she received from home, she felt it was time for her to advance in her career as a way to earn more bang for her buck. Monifa joined a local real estate investment group which helped spark her interest in development and construction. A peer from the group recommended she enroll in The Center for Working Families’ inaugural four-week Construction Ready training program; equipping candidates for entry-level positions in construction. Entering the training program would allow Monifa to enhance her understanding of the field as well as earn a better living wage for her family. “The start of the program was perfect timing because it was around the same time my boyfriend lost a work contract”, said Monifa.
She enrolled with the goal to land a job with a major construction company, and she did! Monifa was hired as a Laborer with J.E. Dunn Construction Group. The day before graduation, trainees participate in a speed-dating style employer meet and greet. Trainees are seated as employers maneuver around the room searching for the right candidate(s). Monifa marked this activity as a program highlight. “After gaining my D.O.T. Flagger and Laser Certifications as well as national construction core credentials I felt like meeting employers immediately was the icing on the cake”, said Monifa.
As she grows with the company, she hopes to move into project management work. A future promotion will also provide the income necessary to move her family into a larger home. Monifa is committed to the industry and credits the Construction Ready training as a stepping stone. She recently completed her 90 day review and was promoted from a yellow hat to white hat; an employee milestone at J.E. Dunn. She is well on her way!
Meet Steven Ware…
Steven Ware never anticipated being a single father. In October of 2009 Steven’s life took an unexpected turn and he became not only a father, but a single father of beautiful twin boys, Isaiah and Zion. This unexpected blessing became the catalyst for Steven to think through his future, what he wanted for his family and how to get there. This is how his journey with The Center for Working Families began…
Steven first discovered the Center when he came for free tax preparation, and after discovering our bundle of services in orientation he enrolled in our four week Job Readiness Training Program. Undoubtedly the training presented a new challenge, but Steven entered with a relentless commitment. As a parent in our Two-Generation Initiative, we were able to provide Steven with subsidized childcare for Isaiah and Zion at Sheltering Arms – Educare Atlanta, a longstanding TCWFI partner. The comfort in knowing his boys are receiving high-quality early learning, right in the neighborhood, allowed Steven to fully invest in our program. Steven states “I am so glad I found The Center for Working Families. I’m more confident than I was before, and I feel prepared to get through any interview with my eyes closed, be successful on the job and better manage my finances.”
The combination of these supports, with Steven’s own drive, helped him secure full time employment! He also plans to start Atlanta Technical College next year, an item on his Individual Development Plan designed with his TCWFI Pathway Coach. “The Center has really helped me create a pathway for my family’s future. It’s amazing to be growing with my boys.”