Tara was the last person to leave the graduation ceremony. While her family waited outside to take photos, she looked around the empty auditorium, holding on to the moment.
Six years before graduation, Tara arrived in the U.S. from a refugee camp in Nepal. She found jobs in retail and as an overnight nursing assistant, while caring for her dad and brother, who both have health issues. She wanted a job that paid more to support her family and fulfill her desire for a career.
She needed a high school diploma to get hired for better-paying jobs, but after taking the pre-test for an equivalency diploma, she felt too overwhelmed to continue.
Then Tara learned about United Way of Central Iowa’s Bridges to Success initiative. Career coaches supported Tara as she took classes and worked toward the test. They even helped her family cover a rent deposit when they moved.
Tara thought earning her high school equivalency diploma would take five years. It took her five months.
“I have so many opportunities now,” she says. “I feel so confident.”
Growing up in the refugee camp for 18 years, Tara and her family had little to eat, and her family worked long hours spinning thread to afford basic items such as soap. The most Tara envisioned for her future was becoming a maid.
Now she’s working to become a nurse. She started classes through Central Iowa HealthWorks, another United Way initiative, which provides free health care training to those who encounter barriers.
“I feel like I need to do even better now, not just to make my family proud, but all of you here,” she says.
Her career coach replies, “You’re already there, Tara.”
Read more at unitedwaydm.org/stories/graduate-finds-her-path.