Sometimes life gives you lemons. The saying continues with advice to make them into lemonade. But, what if you don’t have sugar? Or cups? Or a pitcher to make it in? Then, you just have lemons.
This is what life can feel like for many people in our community. They have hopes and dreams like everyone else, but circumstances continue to give them lemons without all the other ingredients to create a delicious cup of lemonade.
Nancy Hadley is one of these people. From a young age, Nancy’s life has been series of ups and downs, times of struggle and times of calm. “My first five years were very rough,” shares Nancy. “Then, I had a mellow few years in the middle,” she continues, sharing how she found some stability as a foster child. “But at 15, I started on a really rough path that I chose for myself.”
Ultimately, Nancy ended up as a homeless youth and was connected with Community Youth Services (CYS), an Olympia non-profit organization that has, for over 45 years, provided a wide range of services to help area youth including shelter, safety and educational assistance. CYS’s ultimate goal is to help connect youth who want a better life with resources to help achieve that goal.
CYS was a lifeline for Nancy where she lived in the teen shelter, Haven House. Ultimately, Nancy chose to leave Thurston County, opting to join the alternative lifestyle of riding the rails. While the “hobo” culture today is much different from Hollywood image, it is still alive and well. And, according to Nancy, a little rough.
Too rough, she knew, for a child.
When Nancy found out she was pregnant, she left her life aboard trains and settled in Oklahoma. “In Oklahoma it was impossible to get rent and bills paid. It was impossible to get on our feet.” So, she and her daughter headed home to Olympia. “We moved back here because I knew there was so much community-based support. I haven’t seen anywhere else that I’ve travelled like Olympia for the support it offers.”
Nancy returned to Olympia last June and she and her 2-year-old daughter connected back with CYS where they are living in transitional housing. “There are so many programs within CYS for kids coming off the street or out of foster care. It’s a true lifeline,” says Nancy.
And, that lifeline doesn’t just connect Nancy and CYS. A web of support crosses, extends and connects throughout the non-profit world in Thurston County. One of these lines connected Nancy with the YWCA of Olympia where Nancy entered the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP).
The program’s goal is to equip women in poverty with the skills and confidence to obtain meaningful work, building a new and better life. Pamela Dickey, EEP Training Specialist shares, “When Nancy came into the program, I didn’t know where she was going to wind up. She was just another student. But, as she got into the work, she shined. She knew what she had to do and was determined to do it. She figured out where to go and who could help her. Our goal is to teach women to do things for themselves. Nancy did it. And she’s still doing it today.”
The training enabled Nancy to learn and practice bookkeeping skills and created in her a drive to do more. She progressed quickly through the three tiers of the program, reaching the independent work stage, and those at the YWCA and CYS noticed a change in her. “Nancy blossomed in this program,” says Cherie Reeves Sperr, Community Engagement and Development Director at the YWCA of Olympia. “You could see the confidence and self-esteem grow day after day. It was a pleasure to experience.”
Around this time CYS came to Nancy and offered her the opportunity to apply for a special scholarship through the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation: a two-year, full tuition waver. “I had to write an essay about what attending college would mean to me,” says Nancy. Her heartfelt essay, combined with the support of CYS and the YWCA of Olympia, earned Nancy the scholarship and she enrolled at SPSCC as a full-time student this fall.
Nancy’s now excited about the future, one which includes SPSCC’s welding technology program next quarter. “While I was working at the YWCA,” Nancy shares, “there was a customer that would come in and we got on the subject of travelling and hitchhiking and I told him that’s how I used to live my life. He shared that you can be a welder and work on the trains and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do.”
Nancy’s full tuition waiver allows her to be a mother, student and someone with a future. “I have a lot of opportunity now that I didn’t have before. I can see a time when I won’t have to depend on anyone to take care of myself and my daughter.”
Cherie agrees that Nancy’s future is bright and credits Nancy’s drive and passion first, but emphasizes the joint efforts of local non-profits that are making her progress possible. “None of us do this work alone. The SPSCC Foundation is a great partner with the YWCA and CYS. By joining together, we create a web of support for someone like Nancy and that is what really makes a difference.”
The SPSCC Foundation tuition waiver opens a door that offers a future for Nancy. Nancy has always had the lemons, the essential ingredient to make lemonade. With help from area non-profits like CYS, YWCA of Olympia and the SPSCC Foundation working together to provide the sugar, the cups and the pitcher, Nancy will soon be making lemonade all on her own. And, with the tools she will gain through her education and degree in welding technology, Nancy can soon help others in our community make a little lemonade, too.
To learn more about the scholarships and partnership opportunities with the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation visit them online or call 360-596-5430.