Monica, 23, is a vibrant, determined, and passionate mom of two little girls, Kinley, 5, and Harleigh, 2. After five years of attending CAA services off and on due to barriers like transportation and childcare, she passed her GED test and is making plans to go to nursing school. Her career choice is not one that she takes lightly; Monica’s hardships throughout her life has inspired her to pursue an occupation that will help others in ways she wishes she had growing up.
Monica grew up in a family that was overcome by addiction. At a young age, her grandparents became her primary caregivers, as her parents could no longer support her or her young brother. By the age of 14, Monica’s primary responsibility became taking care of her ailing grandparents and raising her little brother. In addition to her tumultuous home life, Monica endured many years of bullying and being talked down to by her peers at school.
Despite these setbacks, Monica was determined to succeed. “I stayed focused on school. I knew that I would be the first one of my family to graduate. I was determined,” she remembered.
Just shy of high school graduation, however, Monica found out that she was pregnant with her first baby. She was faced with the choice of completing her education or taking care of her newborn. She dropped out of school and made it a priority for her boyfriend, Austin, to get his degree instead.
After another baby and years of Austin providing most of the financial support for the family, Monica realized something had to change. “About a year ago, I had this epiphany: what would I do if something were to happen to Austin? I don’t have my degree, a job, or my driver’s license. How would I take care of my girls?”
In January 2018, Monica returned to CAA and got connected with agency transportation and childcare. Because of these services, she has been able to attend Adult Education and Parenting classes regularly while her youngest daughter participates in on-site Early Childhood Education programming. As she’s waiting on her highly anticipated GED certificate to come in the mail, she’s making progress on additional goals like participating in CAA Work Skills classes, getting her driver’s license, and applying for nursing programs.
When Monica first came to CAA years ago, she lacked the confidence she needed to pursue her education. After years of neglect and being spoken down to, she didn’t feel smart enough to get her degree. Today, she is excelling in her studies. She is strong and persistent. She insists on giving her daughters a mom – and a life – that she always dreamed of. Ultimately, she believes she’s capable of anything she sets her mind to. “Now I take everything as a challenge,” she commented. “Tell me I can’t do it… and I’ll do it.”
When asked about a moment that has stood out to her during the past year at CAA, she replied: “When Sarah [former CAA AmeriCorps member] moved away, she left me a note that said ‘Your life has meaning, your story has value’. That meant a lot to me. I don’t want other people to feel the way I’ve felt growing up. I want to use my experience and give back to people. And I want my daughters to have the best life possible.”