Nereyda’s story: It’s never too late to pursue your dreams

Posted on June 27, 2019 by UnidosUS Blog:

UnidosUS Affiliate Northwest Side Housing Center is one of this year’s Affiliate Story Contest winners for sharing this story told by Nereyda, one of their clients who participated in their Women Forward Chicago initiative, a Latina-centered financial education program designed to create a safe space to set goals and build financial confidence.

Thinking about their students’ busy schedule, NWSHC offers a community-style workshop, with free daycare, nutritious meals, and access to community resources to benefit them and their families. Congratulations, NWSHC, and thank you for sharing the motivating stories of our community.

My family moved here from Mexico when I was 12 years old, and I learned English the hard way. In high school, I took two years of medical assistant classes because I always dreamed of working in a hospital.

But I graduated, met a man, moved to Chicago, started having kids, and paused on my career. As my children grew up, I became a Local School Council member at Schubert Elementary School, which is when I learned about the [Northwest Side Housing Center’s] Women Forward program. So, I signed up.

I wanted to do more with my life, but I didn’t know how. From the time my kids were born, they’ve been my entire life. Before Women Forward, I’d stay home, buy groceries, pick up the kids, and go back to the house. That was literally my schedule every day.

Although free childcare was provided during Women Forward workshops, it still felt like I was letting go of my kids to do something for myself. Basically, I was feeling guilty. But with Women Forward, I got so much more than I expected.

Carmen, our teacher, pushed us to focus on our financial issues. I opened a savings account and built up my credit. We talked a lot about pushing yourself emotionally to know what you wanted to do in life and to be strong for your family. By listening to other women’s challenges, I learned I’m not alone.

After I graduated from the program, Carmen connected me with Mariel from Cara Connects [co-located at the NWSHC]. She helped me enroll in Cara’s Cleanslate program, and that included a temporary job. I learned a lot of new job skills and after I completed Cleanslate, I was able to get an interview with Lurie Children’s Hospital for an Equipment Service Associate position. I was hired full-time and I’ve been there for four months.

If you would’ve asked me a year ago, “Do you think you can work in a hospital? I would’ve said ‘no.’” The excuses were endless. But now, looking back, I’m so proud. I learned that I am strong.

My children look up to me. My son tells me he’s proud of me. I want to show my two daughters that they can do anything. They can work hard and make their dreams come true. And I’m continuing to show them that by striving towards completing two of my biggest goals: buying a house and becoming a nurse!

Laura Slabaugh