Lydia’s Story: Thinking Beyond A Job

Lydia lost her job and then her home. She was pregnant and concerned about the future of her baby. She applied for public assistance, but she knew that she needed to improve herself. Then, Lydia learned about EMERGE and she became part of a pilot program we’ve led over the past year.

The program was designed to pilot new ways to work with MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program) recipients. We’ve encouraged people to think beyond a low-wage job. Instead, each participant is encouraged to pursue training for a career pathway with higher earning potential. EMERGE coaches help remove barriers, so participants can focus on school. Once EMERGE helped Lydia secure stable housing, she was ready to dive into a five-month Community Health Worker program.

But getting started was not without challenges. School wasn’t easy, especially with a new baby. “I just passed my GED by the skin of my nose, so it was a challenge to get through this.” With support and encouragement from her coach, Lydia not only completed the training, but she also excelled at it, receiving all A’s and B’s in her classes.

Over the past year, we’ve shown that when MFIP participants have access to training funds, a career coach, and assistance to overcome barriers like housing and transportation, they can pursue new goals and reach new heights. Lydia is just one of them. So far, 53 other participants are either enrolled in a training program or have completed one. In fact, for those who have completed training and are employed, the average wage is nearly $13 an hour, well above the projected project goal.

Not all eligible participants have seized the opportunity as Lydia did. For some people, it’s difficult to see beyond the immediate desire to be employed, as opposed to committing time and effort to training. But Lydia is glad she did. “I think the program was just amazing. I’m a new person today.”

Upon completing her certificate, Lydia got a job with EMERGE partner Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). While at NAZ, she built relationships with North Minneapolis families, to help them find ways to become more successful, too. She has since left NAZ to focus on her education. She’s identified a passion for public speaking and is pursuing her associate’s degree in Communications. Lydia is ready for what her future holds. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the program.”