Monica grew up in Maywood, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. She would describe her childhood as great and always had pride in her home community. Monica was close with her family. She called herself shy, but popular, in school and had many friends.
During the summers between her high school years, Monica held various jobs helping out around the community. She filed records at the police station, babysat, worked in the kitchen at her high school, and worked at a nursing home. Monica, like most, found herself “just trying to survive in this world” throughout early adulthood. Even throughout her own personal, family, and relational challenges, Monica remained strong and positive. She became a mentor to younger girls and supported her family.
Monica spent one year in jail, and while incarcerated, she learned a lot about herself. Monica thanks a Correctional Officer, Ms. McCormick, for believing in her. “Ms. McCormick saw something in me before I could see it in myself”. While in jail, Monica participated in various classes and programs, including domestic violence prevention classes, sewing programs, and presentations performed by University of Illinois-Chicago students. Monica was also given the chance to meet with Illinois’ First Lady M.K. Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton while incarcerated. She was given the opportunity to share her perspective on the challenges women face while exiting jail or prison, and what services are needed for reentry. After Monica shared her perspective, she recalls everyone in the room applauding her for her bravery in sharing the barriers women face in reentry.
Although close with her family, who she deems as her biggest support system, Monica knew she could not go home once released. She told her family “I needed to find somewhere to go to get on my feet. I had to get myself together.”
After a short stay at The Salvation Army, Monica found herself entering Grace House. Although Monica has only been at Grace House for three months, she has made tremendous strides. She has completed Intensive Outpatient Treatment at Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, participates in health education classes provided by RUSH University Medical Center, and meets regularly with her therapist from Adler Community Health Services. Prior to Grace House, Monica “had never really considered therapy”. Now, she is a big proponent and realizes how helpful it is to have individual sessions with her therapist from Adler to talk about whatever is on her mind. Monica uses her therapy sessions to talk about what is bothering her and how she can continue to build momentum to excel in life. Monica is currently in Road to Success, a 2-week job readiness-training program. She is eager to update her resume and apply for employment.
Monica dreams big. She is working with her case manager to learn how to become independent in life, including financially independent. Monica is excited to explore two career paths that build upon her prior work experiences and passions. Her experience working in a nursing home as a teenager has stuck with her. Monica’s long-term goal includes going to nursing school to work in home health care. Monica was also a bus driver and is looking into renewing her Commercial Driver’s License to pursue employment as a bus driver, another job she previously enjoyed.
Monica’s advice for someone who may find themselves in a similar situation as hers is “you have to give yourself a chance. You have to believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams”. Monica is thankful for the opportunity to be at Grace House and remains both positive and motivated as she continues with programming.
Monica’s believes life is what you make of it. “Now that I’m getting my life back, it is time to start living it.”