Shawna’s Success Story
“I want my story to be used to heal others. This could be an inspiration for them to do some changing in their lives. There are options. There are always options.”
These are the words of Shawna, mother of three, just days after graduating from Indiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminology. Several years before, she escaped a domestic violence situation with her three children and moved to Indiana. As Shawna bluntly put it, it was either leave or end up dead. She chose life, but it wasn’t easy. She recalls living in a hotel room for seven weeks. “I was homeless and felt like we were living in a jail cell,” she said.
Shawna took advantage of a network of community programs to keep going. Once in Indiana, she found a place to live through the Section 8 housing voucher program. She also found employment, but needed additional resources to realize her dream – beginning her own career. “I knew I needed more education for the different jobs I was looking at online,” she said. “I wanted to get a degree to better myself and support my kids.”
Ever on the lookout for community resources, Shawna discovered the Center for Working Families at the John H. Boner Community Center. She enrolled in Pathways to Your Financial Destination workshops and opened an Individual Development Account (IDA) to save for continuing education. Shawna considers her greatest accomplishment to be “the art of saving.” She never had a budget before financial coaching. Now, not only does she have a budget, she also has two savings accounts, a car loan, and a credit card.
While enrolled at CWF, Shawna attended school, maintained a full-time job, and was raising three children. This required discipline, organization, and a game plan. Through it all, her children kept her going. She knew that they were watching her and learning from her example. “Education opens doors to better jobs and a network of people. I’m not staying behind…I want to be somebody,” she said. “You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? No, it takes a village to raise a family.”
Shawna is still working on her game plan. With a bachelor’s degree in hand, she is aiming even higher and will attend Ball State University to earn a master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Science. She plans to use her IDA to complete graduate school and is working with an employment coach on her career path.
“There are lots of doubts on the way and you gotta have lots of patience,” Shawna said. “But once you get something in your heart, go on and do it…don’t let others deter you. I’m still doing it!”
Brenda’s Success Story
Four years ago, Brenda found herself homeless. She was pregnant, already had a toddler son, and had no means of support. She did not know where her next meal would come from. Fast forward to today: Brenda just bought her first home.
“I couldn’t have done this alone,” said Brenda. “It takes many resources, a plan, and help walking through that plan to check off goals—goals that I couldn’t even dream about just four years ago!”
Thanks to hard work, perseverance, and the Center for Working Families at Southeast Community Services (Southeast), Brenda has indeed come a long way. When she was living in the homeless shelter, she was referred to Southeast, where she received help with her electric and gas bill. “It was just enough to get over the hump,” Brenda said. She knew she had to go beyond scraping by on financial supports and was driven to stand on her own. She became a Center for Working Families participant.
Working with an employment coach, Brenda created a resume and learned interview skills. With the help of her coach, she gained confidence in her own abilities, which was just as important as the six hours a day she spent applying for jobs. Her motivation and hard work paid off. She was hired – with good pay – as a paralegal in a downtown law firm.
“Of course, I faced daily struggles with raising two small children by myself, but I was determined that this was not going to be where we stayed in life,” Brenda said. “I, too, wanted the opportunity to buy a home and begin building a nest egg for my family.”
Brenda wanted to make sure her financial struggles were behind her so with the guidance of her financial coach , she learned how to budget her income and track expenses. She constantly adjusted her habits to find savings – like renting a movie instead of going out to the theater. She saved her tax returns and put aside $50 a month. She even quit smoking.
“I saved every penny I could”, Brenda said. “It’s the little things that make a difference.”
Driven to realize her dream of home ownership, Brenda reduced her debt and obtained a secured credit card, raising her credit score substantially. Acting on advice from her financial coach, she applied for and received an Individual Development Account, which matches her savings. Looking back, Brenda recalled, “This stuff doesn’t just happen over night. It took me a long time, pushing through hardships.”
Now Brenda is a proud first-time homeowner. “This is our home…it’s an accomplishment in itself just to come home. And I can send my kids to good schools in the area,” she said as she stood in her three bedroom home complete with a beautiful back yard and front porch.
Brenda still has far to go on her path to success, including the next stage of her career. But now she has a new dream—giving back.
“We need to do this for other people…to help families get on their feet and use every possible resource out there, like the Center for Working Families at Southeast,” she said. “With hard work, patience, and caring people by your side, you can achieve anything!”
Natoya’s Success Story
After leaving an abusive environment, Natoya and her three young children moved to a new city; she had no job and no resources. She tirelessly submitted job applications without any invitations for interviews. She tried to navigate the process to receive government assistance with little success.
When Natoya began working with the Center for Working Families at Southeast Community Services (Southeast), she saw hope for the first time. With the guidance of her employment coach, Natoya improved her resume and her interview skills.
“After being in such a negative place, my confidence was so low,” Natoya said. “Southeast helped me rebuild my confidence and believe in my skills.”
This renewed sense of empowerment helped Natoya land a job as a medical assistant at Indiana University Health. When asked about her job, Natoya beamed with joy and said, “I get to encourage families and put smiles on patients’ faces even during the most stressful situations.”
Natoya began to dream bigger. With her mother as a role model, Natoya knew that homeownership was crucial for her children’s stability and growth. With buying a house as her goal, Natoya’s financial coach helped her create a budget and savings plan for the first time. She tracked expenses, learned to manage debt, and negotiated with creditors reducing one medical bill from $1,800 down to $400.
Armed with a plan, Natoya is close to reaching her homeownership goal. She has opened an Individual Development Account to save money for a down payment, and she has increased her credit score through the Twin Accounts program at Financial Health Federal Credit Union.
These new savings habits have reduced Natoya’s stress level and have helped her stay focused. “I no longer have fear when I open my bank statement each month,” said Natoya. “I know exactly where my money is going, and I see progress every day.”
Natoya continues planning for the future and is excited to create new goals with her financial coach. She wants to get a bachelors degree in health care management and learn to speak Spanish.
“Southeast gave me hope. I now know there are opportunities and connections out there to get me where I want to go,” said Natoya. “Southeast is committed to helping people achieve their dreams… you just got to be persistent in defining the future you want!”