“Where do you see yourself at 21?” was one of the first questions Jessica was asked during her intake interview for the New Pathways program. At eighteen, she didn’t have an answer. She had no idea where her life would take her next and, in fact, she had never thought about it before. “I couldn’t see beyond the next day,” she reflected.
After becoming homeless and deep in debt, Jessica was referred to the New Pathways program by a social worker who believed she could benefit from their services.
“The staff saw more potential in me than I knew I had,” said Jessica, who at 21 years old is now living independently and working two jobs as she pursues her undergraduate degree in psychology.
“Jessica took advantage of all the services that we offered, did everything that we asked of her and was determined to succeed,” noted counselor Tina Cooper. The program offers youth, who for one reason or another, lack the essential education, life skills, job training, family support and social networks necessary to make their way in the world. Services include community outreach, career and workforce development, education and counseling.
As she reflected on her experiences, Jessica repeatedly praised the staff and spoke about the level of support she received from them. “Anything I wanted to do for myself, they supported me. Focused on my plan, they guided me through it,” she added. “The whole team is amazing; they are like family to me. They helped me through the biggest problems, and the smallest, even assisting me when I had car problems!”
Recalling the many times when obstacles got in her way: trying to find an apartment when she didn’t have the required longevity in employment to sign a lease; issues with a roommate; a car accident; and finding alternate transportation to keep multiple jobs. These were all challenges that would have thrown her off track prior to her involvement with New Pathways, but Jessica was able to navigate through them with staff support.
Today, Jessica juggles a busy schedule that includes working two jobs and taking five classes at Morgan State University, where she is on track to graduate in December 2020. As a clinical assistant in a neuro-behavioral lab at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a medical institution for children with developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, Jessica works with severely autistic children and assists them with their daily activities. She also works a part-time job in retail.
Upon graduation, Jessica dreams of gaining full-time employment at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, using her psychology degree to help children. “The work is so challenging but is also so rewarding,” Jessica said. “I see possibilities for growth there and look forward to finding a job in my field.”
“Before, I was short-changing myself, not thinking of my future. When you don’t know what is out there, you can’t know what you want. New Pathways helped me achieve more than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t know how strong I was, and they helped me learn a lot about myself. I am happier now than I have ever been, and I live with purpose and with my future in mind. I always think about my future.”