“Coming to City Mission was no mistake. Doors flew open for me to be here, and I don’t take that for granted,” said Renee, a current City Mission resident in the Women’s Shelter.
Before coming to City Mission three months ago, Renee had just completed a seven and a half year stint at a state prison and was forced to live in a halfway house for six months, because she had nowhere else to go. Now, she is one week into an online Bachelor of Science program in Information Technology at South University and is ready to start her new job next month.
“I’ve been utilizing the Career Center ever since I got here,” Renee said of her time at City Mission. “Life just took off for me after I met Steve and Brianna [City Mission Career Training & Education Center Staff]. They really ministered to me and showed me that I was worth something, that my past doesn’t have to equal my future.”
With her criminal background and past drug and alcohol issues, Renee had been struggling to find any kind of work. “My past just kept showing up, and I kept hitting these brick walls,” she explained. “The Career Center really taught me a whole new set of principles and a whole new way of doing things. Before, I would always make the same mistakes over and over again. I’m learning now how to do things differently. You have to remain teachable.”
The Career Training & Education Center staff at City Mission helped Renee craft her resume, complete online applications for education and employment, and present herself confidently in interviews. “They really showed me how to take all these negative things from my past and turn it all around into a positive,” she explained. “I don’t set myself up for failure anymore. I’m trying to find jobs that are more suitable for me at this point in my life. I understand that I might need to start out with an entry-level job, so I can get my foot in the door and show my worth. And I say that with dignity, because I see now that I have value.”
When Renee was growing up, her parents were both addicted to drugs, and her education was one of the only stabilizing factors in her life until she was forced to drop out before graduation. In 1995, she was able to complete her GED and has been trying to continue her education ever since. “It was my Grandmother who really instilled in me the value of education,” she explained, “And I want to do that same thing now for my grandkids.”
During her most recent incarceration, Renee suffered a stroke. “There was a time I couldn’t walk or talk or feed myself. I used to wake up every morning miserable. Now, when I wake up, I celebrate life. I’m just celebrating being able to move my arms and legs. I don’t take anything granted anymore.”
Renee has had plenty of struggles in her life and has had to overcome a lot. All of those struggles have given her a strength and determination that she believes will help her to have a bright future for herself and to be a positive example for her grandchildren. “I want to teach my grandkids the importance of education. I want to teach them to have their own identity. They’re going to make mistakes in life, but I don’t want them to make my mistakes. I pray every day that they can break this generational curse.”
Renee is studying Information Technology, because she wants to someday create a video game that educates children. “I have to learn how to do that,” she said. “I want to help children learn while they’re having fun.” In fact, Renee believes that the purpose for her future is going to be about helping people. “I am meant to help people,” she said. Something she wants to do with her life is to help women, who are coming out of prison, find the resources they need to start life over. “I want to help them bridge that gap between prison and society.”
City Mission helped Renee get back on track, so now she is working to give back. “The gratitude I have in my heart for this place is indescribable. It is always going to be a part of my life. City Mission is forever engraved on my heart.”
“This place is beautiful,” she continued. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Being here is like being with Christ when he fed the multitudes with a fish and a loaf of bread. You can watch God just work through this place. There isn’t one person who goes untouched. There are miracles happening here.”
Renee is an example of a life transformed by City Mission and the work of the Career, Training & Education Center staff. “The City Mission is a place that’s filled with opportunities,” she explained. “If you can open yourself up and get the full effect of the Mission, the sky is the limit.”