Jackie’s Story: A Brave Mother Creates a Better Life for her Son

This holiday season, we want to share with you the story of a brave and resilient mother who sometimes feels overwhelmed but knows she is never alone, thanks to supporters like you.

Jackie’s story began in the St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands with the dream of a better life for her son. While St. Thomas may be paradise for vacationers, it’s a hard place for locals to eke out a living due to limited job prospects, a poor school system, expensive housing, and a general lack of the basic goods and services that we take for granted in the states.

Knowing that the schools in St. Thomas did not provide the educational opportunities their son needed to create a better life, Jackie and her husband made the difficult decision for her to move with their son to Colorado. Originally from Jordan, her husband was not able to immigrate with his family at that time. He filed paperwork to re-enter the U.S. earlier this year, and now they wait. He has tried to contribute to the family’s income over the years, but was never able to find work that paid well enough to really help.

Jackie and her son settled into a Boulder County Housing Authority unit in Lafayette in May 2015. She enrolled him in high school and found a job at a big-box store. While she knew she was doing the right thing for her son, she often felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping the family afloat.

Jackie first discovered Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC) seven years ago when a friend and former SCCC participant recommended our Family Resource Center to her. Since then, Sister Carmen has occasionally helped Jackie with basic needs such as food, rent, and utilities. Now she is working on goal setting with her Advocate, Brittany. Her first priority: finding a new job.

After experiencing health problems related to her job this summer—severe, chronic nosebleeds caused by the heat in the bakery and the physical strain of lifting heavy items—Jackie decided it was time to look for a new job—ideally one with less stress, higher wages, and better benefits. Because the store was understaffed and she was crossed-trained in the bakery and the deli, Jackie was constantly running back and forth to serve customers. She was making about $18/hour, but it was hard to make ends meet with the high cost of rent, groceries and gas, not to mention the bills from her recent hospital visits. She had insurance, but it only covered a portion of her trips to the emergency room to treat her nosebleeds and the procedure required to stop them. She arranged payment plans with the hospitals, and then met with Brittany to devise a plan to leave her job.

She searched job postings online and wanted to apply to some, but needed help writing a résumé and uploading it to a job-search website. Once again, she turned to SCCC for help. Brittany helped Jackie with her résumé, and Lara, from our Bridging Digital Divides computer literacy program, helped her with the technological aspects of applying for work online.

Success! Jackie got a new job as an in-home caregiver for seniors. The starting pay is about the same as what she was making at the big-box store, but the new job offers a better future and better benefits, while also being less stressful and physically demanding. Soon she’ll start training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Earning the CNA designation will allow Jackie to grow professionally and increase her earning potential. If the cost of CNA training is not covered by her new employer, Jackie will receive tuition assistance from Sister Carmen’s new program, Pathways to Economic Stability.

Jackie is not the only family member striving toward success in the healthcare field. Her son recently graduated with honors from CU Boulder with a Pre-Med degree and is currently pursuing a career as an anesthesiologist. He is also in the process of getting his CNA certification so that he can work part-time to contribute to the household income while attending medical school.

Grateful for all she’s received from SCCC, Jackie is always eager to give back. She has been involved in several Sister Carmen programs over the years. Jackie is a graduate of the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI), a program designed to develop effective civic leaders who can help build healthy families and communities. She’s also served on our Participant Advisory Committee (PAC), which provides feedback and support to improve our programs and services. Volunteering in the Sister Carmen Community Center Garden is another way Jackie has given back, and of course sharing her story:

“I want to share my story because Sister Carmen has been there for me, and I am grateful. It’s a place where anyone who is destitute or experiencing a difficult situation can come and get help. Sister Carmen shouldn’t be a secret! I want everyone to know that there are caring, concerned, helpful people in the world, and that they are going to do whatever they can to assist you, especially if you have a family.” — Jackie

From the COVID pandemic to the Marshall Fire to a 40-year-high inflation rate, it’s been another year of historic challenges at Sister Carmen. The power of community has seen us through, and we’re so grateful you’re a part of ours. We hope you’ll consider making a year-end gift to ensure we’ll continue to be here to support families like Jackie’s whenever they need us. Thank you.

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