Thank you to United Way of Cass Clay for sponsoring this article, and for local mom Ashley Littlewolf for sharing her experience!
“That’s me!” the little preschooler exclaimed excitedly as he peered up at the billboard. He beamed in awe as he saw the photo of him and his mom overlooking a street just a few blocks from his house.
It was so special to watch Rose and her son see the billboard for the first time. Knowing what hardships Rose had endured, and how hard she has worked to reach her dreams to support her family, this was a monumental moment for their family.
My name is Ashley Littlewolf and I am a Career Coach who helps moms, like Rose, find a path out of poverty.
What does poverty look like?
Poverty can look like me.
As a little girl growing up on the Leech Lake Reservation, my family lived paycheck to paycheck without much support, guidance, or hope. For me, it seemed like living in survival mode would be a never-ending cycle.
But I eventually became a first-generation college graduate, determined to make a difference for other little girls like me so they, too, could have a better future.
I can relate to the stories of my Career Coach clients because I have been there — as a child, and now as mom with a daughter of my own. When I look into the eyes of my clients (like Rose), I can feel the initial hopelessness because I have also experienced it first-hand.
But as a community, if we work together, we can provide hope.
Here in our own community of Fargo-Moorhead, 1 in 9 people live in poverty.
With poverty defined as a family of four living on less than $26,200 a year. Locally, this equates to 30,000 of our neighbors who struggle to support their families. And poverty is even more common in children under five, with one in seven in our community experiencing poverty.
And unfortunately, lack of support and opportunity often passes from one generation to the next — making children more likely to live in poverty as adults. Without help and intervention, like a Career Coach, this cycle of poverty continues for generations, impacting us all as a community.
That’s why United Way’s support of Career Coaches, like me, is so important.
United Way works to understand our community’s challenges, such as poverty, and then bring people together to create innovative solutions — like Career Coaches.
When I met Rose for the first time, I will never forget the way she looked at me and said “It’s too late.” Without access to support from a Career Coach, that’s how many parents feel; stuck in the cycle of poverty.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
About a year ago, Rose was a single parent working a full-time job, struggling to pay rent, and provide enough food for her family — all while juggling distance learning with three children. She had nearly given up hope.
Together, we began to put a plan in place to reach her goal of becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, which included making sure her family had enough food to eat while Rose took on the challenges of job training. For people in poverty like Rose, it isn’t always easy to “go get a better job.”
While there are plenty of jobs available in our community, barriers like child care, job training, a stable home, and even hunger often stand in the way between moms like Rose and the opportunity for a career that can support their families.
As her Career Coach, I walked alongside Rose, watched her confidence build, and was there to cheer her on as she proudly passed her certification test (like I do for many of my clients).
Today, Rose works at a local senior care facility caring for dementia patients in a high-demand career. Each day she has hope and opportunity, knowing her children will have a better future.
She was motivated to share her story in the hope that it would inspire our community to support United Way’s work to provide more Career Coaches. And I hope when you see her beautiful, now confident face you can be reminded of the power of hope and the tremendous opportunity we have as moms to support one another.
Rose recently shared, “Every day I wake up I am so happy to go to work and know my kids are cared for and will have a better future for themselves. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Career Coaches are just one of the ways United Way of Cass-Clay is uniting our community to lift families out of poverty. As a mom, you don’t have to be a Career Coach to make a difference. When you give to United Way, you are a part of connecting moms like Rose with life-changing Career Coaches.
When we invest in and support each other, we can create a better tomorrow for all of us. Learn more at unitedwaycassclay.org.
At United Way of Cass-Clay, we bring together people like you, community leaders, community partners, companies, volunteers, and donors to find long-term solutions that lift families out of poverty and change our community for the better for generations.
We believe all kids deserve a home where they feel safe, moms and dads should have opportunities for jobs that supports their families, children shouldn’t have to worry when they will have their next meal, and that all people in our community deserve the chance to succeed. We invite you to LIVE UNITED and be a part of the power of community. Learn more at unitedwyacassclay.org or email [email protected].