Life didn’t start out easy. With a tumultuous home life and physical abuse that left her traumatized, Ranesha grew up feeling unempowered and coped by internalizing her emotions. Yet even with these challenges, she persevered and was able to graduate from high school earlier than anticipated but struggling to find direction.
Getting a job offered some financial stability and with bigger dreams for her future, she also enrolled in St. Petersburg College. But change can sometimes be overwhelming and lacking confidence in her own abilities, she eventually left school.
The devastating news that her mother had breast cancer heightened her sense of responsibility to her family and long nights at the hospital were followed by even longer workdays. With her mother out of work and her siblings not contributing financially, she stepped up to make sure the bills were paid – working two jobs – but shouldering so much responsibility at such a young age, she knew that she needed to do something to increase her income. Enrolling in a certification program at Pinellas Technical College seemed like a promising opportunity but with no health insurance, a requirement of the program, she was unable to enroll and Ranesha faced one more setback in her journey.
Feeling defeated and not knowing where to turn, life seemed hopeless. But this is when her life took a different direction.
At United Way Suncoast’s Campbell Park Resource Center in St. Petersburg, Ranesha picked up a flyer that would change her life. The Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) is just one of the Campbell Park Resource Center’s partners. Serving as an on-site provider for workforce development and career training, PCUL also offers assistance with resume writing and training on basic computer skills.
Enrolling in PCUL’s Urban Youth Empowerment Program (UYEP), Ranesha was placed with a coach who assisted her in identifying her strengths and career aspirations. She participated in workshops that helped her increase her knowledge of credit, homeownership and entrepreneurship. A therapist helped her work through emotions from years of abuse and trauma, and Ranesha could finally look at life through a different lens. With a new self-confidence and different outlook on life, she became certified as a phlebotomy technician – finishing at the top of her class – and she is now employed and feeling a sense of achievement that she has never before experienced.
There are many Raneshas in our community – young people who are working to overcome obstacles and find direction – and the Urban Youth Empowerment Program and the Campbell Park Resource Center will continue to support them on their journeys as well. To learn more about the Center and United Way’s work in our neighborhoods, please contact:
Vice President, Neighborhood Initiatives