By Kathy Griffin-Graham, Clothing Bank Director (November 2018)
It is difficult to be a teenager. Try to fit in, be a good friend, a good sibling, a good cousin, a good student and, as it so often happens, trying to do all these things while avoiding peer pressure and making poor choices. This story is so common among many young people, including Tayra.
Tayra, a bright student and high school basketball star wanted nothing more than to be loyal to all her friends and family. Falling prey to peer pressure was something she never dreamed would happen to her. She truly thought she was stronger and smarter than that. At 18 years old, she learned the difficult way peer pressure sneaks up on you and before you know it, you are making the worst choice of your life. In Tayra’s story, the wrong choice left her scared, scarred and incarcerated for 3 years.
We met Tayra at the beginning of 2018. It took only a few minutes in her interview at the Friendship House Clothing Bank for us to know there was a bright light hidden beneath the shame of her past choices. When she began working with us, she was reserved and scared. The thought of people judging her for her past was unsettling and embarrassing. Slowly, though, she began to see that we embraced the young women and she was not the same girl who made a mistake. She began to show her work skills and ethics. She began to trust us and was an active participant in our Empower Hour. She invested in herself, searching for ways to improve herself, rebuild her reputation and focus on a bright future. It was not easy. There were many tears when her background kept her from getting the job for which she had interviewed. But, she kept pushing through.
Tayra showed so much effort, dedication and promise in herself and to the job that we moved her to our senior sorter and extended her position from our 15-week training program to 22 weeks. (A great benefit to accepting no state or federal dollars.) We also sent her to be an office assistant once weekly in our administrative office. No surprise, she excelled in that environment as well.
It did not take much longer for another employer to see the same bright light and dedication we saw at the beginning of the year. Tayra’s hard work paid off when a local, popular hotel hired her for a great room service position. She is exceeding their expectations of performance and reliability. So much so she is currently in training to be a front desk customer service representative.
Today Tayra is still happily employed and looking into advancing her education. She has said her experience at the Friendship House Clothing Bank was a huge part in renewing her confidence, giving her hope, forgiving herself for her past choices and giving her the strength to take the next step to becoming successful. We have no doubt there is no stopping her from reaching any of her dreams and goals.