April Willis

When April Willis first came to the RiseBoro Community Empowerment Center, she was deeply discouraged and uncertain that she would be able to get out of the housing crisis she found herself in.

Ms. Willis was a hard worker, advocating on behalf of children in her job for over six years. When she was six months pregnant, Ms. Willis was no longer able to work due to health complications. She had little support and grew increasingly demotivated. "I was in a shell," she said of the period. April fell behind in rent and her landlord was threatening to evict her. After turning to several resources for help with little success, Ms. Willis was finally referred to the Empowerment Center at Brownsville by CAMBA.

At the Empowerment Center, Ms. Willis worked with Marcia Hargrove, who she says treated her "like family." Marcia offered constructive criticism but was also uplifting and supportive, which helped April feel motivated and optimistic. Marcia worked with social services to help April secure funds for her rental arrears. Regina also helped Ms. Willis apply for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program, from which she graduated in June 2016 and received a Perseverance Award. Ms. Willis also received financial coaching that taught her how to budget, and the Empowerment Center continues to provide support, including helping pay for April's upcoming Nursing Aide exam.

As a new mother trying to get back on her feet, Ms. Willis was grateful to meet such wonderful people through RiseBoro Community Empowerment Center. "I could have left the program with nothing, but I left with so much." She says the Empowerment Center not only showed her compassion, but also gave her the building blocks she needed to work toward her greater goal of supporting her family and helping others. "I wasn't looking for a handout, I was looking for help so I could step out and be all I can be," says Ms. Willis.

In her spare time, Ms. Willis loves to read and be with her daughter. The two of them enjoy spending time outdoors, skating and gardening together. "Being a mother is the hardest job in the world, it's also the greatest reward."

As a nursing assistant, Ms. Willis loves to make hospital patients smile, whether it's offering to read to them or simply asking about their day. Finally excited for the future, Ms. Willis is motivated to share her story and encourage people going through difficult times to persevere and seek help. Ms. Willis looks forward to working as a CNA and eventually hopes to become a Medical Social Worker to combine her passion for medicine and working firsthand with families in crisis. She is thankful for the empathy and support shown to her at the Empowerment Center, and feels prepared to support her family, give back and inspire others.

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