It’s been something of a mantra for the CWEE team in 2020: from surviving to thriving.
This year our survival skills have certainly been tested. Each one of us has had to sacrifice – forgoing learning opportunities, jobs, time with our loved ones, travel, and other aspects of our daily routines.
For CWEE families, 2020 has been especially hard.
The pandemic and the economic crisis have disproportionately impacted the population that CWEE serves, including low-wage workers and people of color, many of whom work in hard-hit industries including retail and hospitality. What’s more, the accelerated shift to online working and learning has further disadvantaged far too many families who still lack access to at-home internet service and a computer other than a smartphone.
In response, CWEE has reworked and optimized every aspect of our program to increase access and ensure vulnerable career seekers’ ability to succeed. CWEE converted to a virtual training model and we will support more than 500 participants annually through online career training, access to technology, digital literacy support, and employment services.
Looking back over the past year, I am immensely proud of this team and how we have adapted – from surviving to thriving – during these unprecedented times. But my greatest source of inspiration by far is the families we serve. And thankfully, even in 2020, there are still stories of triumph that we can celebrate.
One particularly bright spot in 2020 has been the developing career of Natasha Rugley, who completed CWEE’s training program in 2019. Initially, CWEE helped Natasha get hired by Volunteers of America (VOA) as a Residential Coordinator. She was promoted into a full-time position just six months later, and this past summer, Natasha received another promotion to Case Manager. Natasha sees no end to the opportunities within a large organization like VOA, and for the first time she has full benefits, including paid time off, retirement savings, and health insurance.
After Natasha was hired, she has continued to work with CWEE in our Steps to Success program, which provides financial coaching and support to ensure working families can make ends meet. Too often, families’ eligibility for public benefits such as food or child care assistance is terminated once their income starts to climb. Many low-wage workers rely on these subsidies, and even just a small pay raise can trigger a disproportionate loss of assistance. Researchers call this the “cliff effect”.
For Natasha, the Steps to Success program gave her stability, and eventually, the extra money she needed to purchase a vehicle and ensure her ability to get to and from work each day.
“To be a case manager is a dream for me,” says Natasha. “CWEE gave me the confidence I needed to get up and go: They treated me with dignity and understood my anxiety. I feel blessed to now be in a position to help people make a positive change in their own lives.”
Natasha isn’t yet where she wants to be, but when she looks back over the past 18 months, she sees a whole lot of progress – from surviving to thriving. Once employed and unsure of her next move, Natasha is now on a career path and advancing toward the life she wants for herself and her daughter.
“When you’re ready for change, that’s when the changes start happening.”
Warmest wishes to you and your family for a safe and joyous holiday season and a thriving New Year.