Sunday, August 26, 2007

Perspectives on poverty

from Appleton Post-Crescent

Motivation drives improvement

Kym Pajala, 31, Appleton, who once worked part time as a dental assistant at $14 per hour, finished school with the help of CAP Services' Skills Enhancement Program.

She is now a full-time dental hygienist and has doubled her hourly pay.

"CAP helped with tuition, mileage and paid half my day care for my daughter," the single parent said of the struggle to get through her second and third years of schooling. "They were there for me. If an emergency came up — at one point my electricity was shut off — they helped."

That assistance was just what she needed, Pajala said. "It motivated me more to go to school and get where I am now."

Pajala said personal drive to achieve goals and make her family more comfortable was a key focus.

"With my daughter, I wanted a better life for her by making more money. Some people lie back and say I can't do it, but where there's a will there's a way. I'm an example of that."

Support provides opportunity

Zorica Kravic, 49, Appleton, "started from zero" with a lower-wage job after coming to the United States in 1996 with her two children as Bosnian war refugees.

Her job as a physician's first receptionist/ phlebotomist paid $9.25 per hour.

Kravic took classes to learn English and she enrolled in Fox Valley Technical College's nursing program.

Today, she makes between $50,000 and $60,000 per year as a registered nurse. She also owns her own home thanks in large part to Habitat for Humanity.

Kravic's daughter is in pre-med in college and her high school-age son is college bound. She also can afford to care for her elderly parents, who live with her.

"I learned to manage my money and never borrowed," Kravic said. "I think if you have your health, get an education and have ... good support, you can succeed.

"I think getting the right information so I knew what to do was the hardest thing for me. What helped me most was meeting the right people — including the person who told me about Habitat — at the right time."

High school diploma just the start

Tamara Cordova, 25, Appleton, grew up poor and quit school after the ninth grade.

Her husband, Ozy, a Cuban refugee who grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Havana, finished high school and an electrician program there, but has a tough time supporting the family. He makes $10 per hour with a plumbing firm.

The couple think she has the best chance to break the family out of the poverty cycle.

Last school year, Cordova enrolled in Appleton's Even Start Family Literacy program targeting low-income, low-literacy families with young children. She took her kids with her to school so she could work toward her high school equivalency diploma.

She attended adult basic education classes through Fox Valley Technical College with 15 other parents four afternoons a week at McKinley Elementary School in Appleton. Her 5-year-old attended preschool and her 1-year-old attended an infant/toddler class.

This summer, Cordova is doing home study, hoping to complete classes in three subjects before she returns to school in fall. She expects to get her diploma at the end of next school year.

It means a lot to her that she can show her children she can complete high school.

"I want to be able to help my children with their homework from school, because my parents were never able to help me," Cordova said.

Recently, she learned she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression and is taking medication.

Cordova insists she won't stop with the high school diploma.

"I want to support my family and help my husband. I want to have nicer things for my family.

"I want to go to Fox Valley Technical College, and the first class I'd like to take is accounting so I can run a business. I've always had a dream to open a flower shop."

No comments: