Posted May 03, 2012 by

Honor Student Has Baby, Loses Healthcare, Becomes Homeless, But Now Back in School

Clients of Peoples Resource-CenterMoniKea Hatten of Glen Ellyn, Illinois had always been a good student and driven to succeed even though she grew up without much support or the means to accomplish many of her goals. She lost her job in 2007 and enrolled at the College of DuPage in an effort to upgrade her education and make herself more marketable to employers and a more productive member of society.

In 2010, MoniKea Hatten was an honor student but also pregnant. She was unable to finish a summer course scheduled to end July 27th because she delivered her baby on July 12th.  Because she didn’t complete the course, she lost her financial aid.

In 2011, MoniKea turned to WorkNet DuPage to see if they could help her find a way to continue school. Many barriers, however, stood in her way. She had no means of transportation and soon became homeless. Paying for childcare was out of the question. Roseanne Deane at WorkNet recommended a program called LEAP at People’s Resource Center. MoniKea called. “My life has never been the same,” she said. “LEAP gave me provisions for transportation and incentives to help pay for childcare. I didn’t have much money, and it was very difficult to travel 4 ½ hours every day using public transportation from a shelter in Villa Park, but I did it.”

PRC taught MoniKea how to network, and today she is working and continuing her education. She credits LEAP for both. Currently, she is looking for housing for her son and herself. “Everything’s a stepping stone to my destiny,” MoniKea said. “PRC is my home, and the people at PRC are my family. Any young person seeking change should check out PRC. They push you forth into your life. Seriously, they will work with you until you are on your way.”

PRC is changing the lives of struggling youth. The program is called LEAP – Learn and Experience to Advance your Potential. After the program’s first session, several young people who have participated in LEAP are having success when it comes to finding jobs. Young people interested in the program are encouraged to apply at any time. A second session is currently underway, and a third session will begin in May.

LEAP is a 12-week work readiness program for DuPage County young people aged 17 – 21 who meet income guidelines from Illinois WorkNet and who have a significant employment barrier such as limited English, homelessness or are a teen parent or high school dropout. The program is intensive. Participants meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for three months. They receive GED tutoring, if needed; job readiness skills; job placement; classes to obtain Microsoft Office Specialist certification; and leadership skill development. In addition, participants can take advantage of money making incentives such as transportation assistance, attendance allowance, punctuality allowance and paid work experience.

This fall, People’s Resource Center hired Alicia Feistamel, MSW, to serve as Youth Work Readiness Case Manager. “My main responsibility at PRC is to coordinate the LEAP program and work day-to-day with our LEAP participants,” Feistamel said. “LEAP is an amazing opportunity for young people to further their education, learn leadership skills, earn money and obtain skills that are transferable to other careers.”

Monikea Hatten joined the LEAP program, because it gave her work experience as well as the opportunity for advancement. “I am moving forward using this program as a bridge to advance, both in my life and as a productive citizen of my community,” Hatten said. “I’m already using my new skills.” Hatten recently found work as an assistant in a law firm.

“Positive change is evident in the LEAP participants who started to rely on each other for support and guidance,” Feistamel said. “They are excited about the different job opportunities available to them after the program. The staff and volunteers at People’s Resource Center have the opportunity to provide support to youth who may feel lost. That’s the best part of my job.”

LEAP is supported by DuPage County/DuPage Workforce Development, to provide participants with work experience, classes, tutoring and mentoring.

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