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Martina’s Story

This is the transcript a speech given by 21-year-old Martina, a resident of New Moms’ Housing program in 2014.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Martina, and I would like to start off by saying what a pleasure it is to be with all of you today. Being given the opportunity to tell someone my story is a great honor, so I thank you for inviting me.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be a part of something big; whether it was hosting my own talk show, or being part of a movement promoting change in my community. New Moms has been that for me. Growing up in the inner city, and being part of the system, drug abuse, domestic violence, and economic challenges were part of everyday life. I’ve always felt that greatness was inside of me, wanting to be set free — but my surroundings showed no sign of allowing this to happen.

So what was a girl like me, from the inner city, destined to live an ordinary life, to do with these big hopes and dreams? For awhile, they were placed on a shelf too high to reach—that was, until a couple of months prior to having my baby boy, Mario. I decided I would climb until I reached that shelf, and take hold of my dreams. First, I need support, and had to get away from the people that were telling me to give up on my dreams. I had to replace them with positive people and positive energy. I needed an outlet, to jumpstart my new attitude towards life.  New Moms has become that outlet for me.

Not only have they helped me to grow personally, but they’ve also helped me to grow professionally. In my first interview with New Moms, it was very clear to me that this wasn’t a place to hibernate for a few months. The staff aims to see a transition in the mothers that walk through their doors. They drive us to do better, and help us in all ways they possibly can. One of the greatest values that this program his instilled in me is to use my time wisely. Because of this, I get up early every day, with a plan to do something constructive and positive with my time, so my dream will become a reality.

I completed the New Moms Academy program (now know as Job Training), and got a paid transitional job. I hadn’t worked since my son was born, so this was an important opportunity for me.

Through a partner agency, I started working at a summer job for six weeks, with an organization called BEEP (Building Employment and Entrepreneurial Partnerships), as an Administrative Assistant. I began to build a great relationship with my co-workers, and made a good impression on my superiors.  When it came down to the end of my time there, it was hard to say goodbye — I didn’t want to leave, and my boss didn’t want me to go.  I stayed positive, and began searching for a permanent job.

Out of the blue, Ed, the chairperson of BEEP, called me with an idea: he asked if I would consider taking a part-time job with a contractor, who has a linkage with BEEP, which allows me to continue my schooling.  I’m very grateful that this opportunity came to me.

So what does it mean for a mom who doesn’t get a break like I did?  We’re all striving to become independent, but a lack of jobs available for young mothers, especially in my situation, means that we continue to hope for mediocre. We don’t dream big, and we just deal with the cards that are dealt to us.

For some parents, that’s okay. They’d rather avoid the assumed disappointment that’s crouching at their doors. I refuse to adopt that mentality. That doesn’t satisfy the dreams I have in life for my son and I. Unemployment rates are high for everyone — so how does a single mother like me keep hold of my big dream, or even just survive day-to-day? I don’t need to tell you how hard it is for a single mom to find a job, let alone keep one. Where would we be without programs like New Moms?

Now I’m not a lawmaker, alderman, or state representative, or anything like that, but I am a voice for those who are not standing here with me today, to tell you their story. More funding for jobs is needed. More funding for social services is needed. But more importantly, more hearts need to be open, to help those who have dreams on a shelf that seems too high to reach.”