When you meet Linda Lucero, her warmth, optimism and intelligence are the qualities that shine through first. Get to know Linda a little more and you’ll soon glimpse the remarkable grit, strength and sacrifice that lie beneath her cheerful disposition.
Today Linda is in a great place. She feels confident in her personal and professional life, she is proud of how far she’s come, and she is excited about what the future holds.
But getting to this point hasn’t been easy, and Linda’s journey has been marked by economic hardship, and more than her share of grief, loss and disappointment.
Linda wants to share her story, even the hard parts, because she wants other people – especially young single moms – to know that they too, with the right support, can overcome hardship and thrive.
Linda first came to CWEE when she was pregnant with her son, Elijah, who is now 6. But she wasn’t able to focus on the CWEE program and didn’t finish – she was just trying to survive. Linda was homeless at the time, going from hotel to hotel with her mother.
Becoming homeless was the devastating culmination of events that were set in motion years before when Linda’s two brothers, who at the time were teenagers, came back from living with Linda’s dad to the home she shared with her mom and sister. With the extra mouths to feed, money was suddenly tighter than ever.
“My siblings all started having kids really young, and with them, their kids and their spouses, our house was crazy all the time. I felt like a real-life Cinderella always cooking and cleaning,” Linda remembers. “But I didn’t want to see my mom struggle so much.”
So Linda, now 28, got a work permit and at age 16, started working to help support the family.
Throughout her adolescence and into her early 20s, Linda worked side-by-side with her mom, Lisa, the two women doing custodial work, cleaning houses, remodeling, or working in hotels or fast-food restaurants.
When Linda and her mom were unexpectedly laid off at the same time, the bills started to pile up. Eventually, Lisa lost the family home. It was at that point Linda, who was pregnant, and her mother became homeless.
After her son was born, things started to look up for Linda – briefly. She had a small apartment and managed to get a good job working for the City of Aurora, even though she hadn’t yet graduated from high school. But turmoil and tragedy wasn’t lurking far below the surface.
Linda’s mother suddenly passed away in her sleep at just 49 years old. Not even the doctors could explain it, but Linda thinks she understands. “She fell asleep and didn’t wake up; I feel like she was tired and just ready to go.”
Adding to Linda’s grief was the deteriorating relationship with her son’s father. Though the two are friendly today and share parenting duties for Elijah, it has been a long road. The low point was a fight that ended with Linda losing her job – and briefly going to jail.
“I was only in there for a few hours, but it was enough to completely shake me. I sat in jail going through everything that had happened in my life, trying to figure out how I ended up there,” said Linda. “The first thing that popped into my head was CWEE. I didn’t have anything or anyone else, and CWEE was the last place I had felt a sense of belonging and of being home.”
As soon as Linda got out, she called CWEE and reenrolled. “I was just so determined to get it together,” Linda remembers.
And get it together she most certainly did.
Linda completed CWEE’s on-site career training program in 2018, taking full advantage of the counseling and one-on-one support that CWEE offers. The same year, with CWEE’s support, Linda earned her high school equivalency (HSE). When she passed the final HSE test and received confirmation, Linda couldn’t believe it.
“I just sat at the computer, looking at the results and I cried because I never thought I could do it. I guess I just thought life was meant to be hard, and I didn’t have many good examples when I was growing up. But after I graduated from CWEE and got my GED, it was a complete turnaround.”
Always interested in the field of dentistry, Linda enrolled in a training program to become a dental assistant. She completed the coursework in late 2020 and is now doing an externship with a pediatric dental clinic where she hopes to work full-time once she completes her training in the spring.
In addition to her growing career, Linda is grateful for her two beautiful children who are thriving. Six-year-old Elijah likes to write and illustrate his own storybooks and is fiercely protective and adoring of his little sister, Tylin, who is almost 2.
Linda’s success is a credit to her own strength and determination, and CWEE has played an important role in supporting her along the way.
“When you are a young single parent and you are struggling, you just feel lost. It’s hard to feel love and accepted, but when you go to CWEE you get all of that. It’s is a place where we are all in it together, where we all hold each other up. Everyone there is trying to better themselves for our kids and ourselves, and that’s what CWEE gives you, there is so much love there.”