Nia moved back to her hometown here in Pasadena with her three children after getting out of prison. During her incarceration, her kids’ dad passed away. It was hard to make ends meet. “Honestly, I didn’t even know how I was going to be able to afford to get an ID,” Nia explains. Nia sought out help from our Reintegration staff, who helped her get an ID and bus passes. “They helped me with that transportation barrier,” Nia says. “So the money I did have could go toward other things. It helped me save for the car that I have now.” Now, Nia is working and going to school for cosmetology — something she’s always excelled at. “I love making people feel good about themselves,” she says.
After so much stress, Nia knew her kids needed support too. “Their father had passed, we had just moved, and they didn’t know anybody,” Nia remembers. Her daughter Jala was struggling in school and her sons Kai and Malik needed role models.
We let Nia know about our Youth of Promise program (YOP), which provides tutoring, mentoring, volunteering opportunities, and a community of other kids to connect to. Community service was especially important to Nia. “Because that’s what a community is for — to help out.” Nia enrolled Jala and Kai in YOP right away. Though Malik wasn’t old enough for the program, YOP staff connected Malik to partner Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters, which provides mentoring for elementary schoolers. Malik just celebrated his one-year anniversary with his mentor, a Pasadena area attorney.
Through Youth of Promise, Kai met his mentor Darryl — a much-needed role model. “He was really close to his father who passed,” says Nia, “and at 13, he’s at an age where he needs a good male figure in his life. It’s a pivotal age for boys as to which way they’re going to go. I want to keep him on the right side. I’m trying to raise my son to be aware of who he is. I don’t want him to be one of those kids that just gets lost in the streets.”
For Jala, YOP gave her self-confidence and leadership skills. Jala wants to be a photographer, and Nia knows the skills she’s learned in Youth of Promise will take her there. Beyond her salon skills, Nia says, “My biggest strength is being a go-getter. I make sure my kids are taken care of first.”