Ruby Cervantes joined Live & Learn as a Client Coordinator in spring 2017. During her two-and-a-half years with Live & Learn, Ruby helped over 200 women journey out of poverty. Just before leaving in July 2019, Ruby shared her reflections on her time at Live & Learn, the struggles faced by women in our community, and the lessons she will be taking with her.

How did you first get involved with Live & Learn, and what drew you to the organization?

I worked as a Family Support Specialist at Southwest Human Development, and I would meet with the families to help them with setting goals and developing plans for how to achieve those goals. Their goals could be anything, but I always tried to push education and careers. I knew from my studies at ASU that we really need to move families out of poverty if we are going to give children a better future. Children need to grow up in healthy, stable households. It’s so much harder if they grow up with traumas and adverse childhood experiences, and then we try to help them.

Live & Learn was a community partner of Southwest Human Development, and I knew I could refer families to Live & Learn when they needed certain things, like financial assistance. Then, slowly, I started to realize the amazing impact Live & Learn was having on the families. I was seeing these women achieve incredible things when I referred them to Live & Learn. They were getting careers that really moved their entire family out of poverty.

Once I realized what Live & Learn was doing for these women, I just knew I had to transfer over. I had to be part of this.

Describe your role at Live & Learn. What does a Client Coordinator do?

It took me a little time to grow into my role, and I certainly evolved during my two-and-a-half years. But the most important things we do for the women we work with are developing their action plans, finding new community resources to connect them to, and, probably the most important, being an active listener who doesn’t judge and is just a phone call away.

I think of my ultimate goal with every woman as helping her pursue a career that’s right for her. Of course, this means addressing all the life-skills she may lack, the mental health obstacles she needs to tackle, the financial assistance she requires, the education she needs, and a great deal more. Just to get the education a woman needs to start her career, for example, means we have to address everything from test anxiety, stress management, self-confidence, financial aid, to transportation.

Through action plans and the personal attention we give to clients, Client Coordinators can hold the women accountable. For many of them, this is really a crucial piece. I hold them accountable for what they know they need to do for themselves. It’s not what their family, spouses, bosses hold them accountable for. It’s their own goals and their own action plans.

The active listening piece is so crucial for this very reason. I would sit one-on-one with my clients every month, and through active listening I learned how to guide women towards their own solutions and help them see for themselves where their problems and obstacles lie.

What is something that stands out as important that you learned from your time with Live & Learn?

The mission—I will always keep this with me. I grew up in Maryvale. I am from this community, and this mission is so close to my heart.

We need to help people heal from their traumas, especially violence and poverty. It affects people’s mindset, and you can’t just get over that.

It is so important to me that we break the cycles of behavior that keep people in poverty and violence, passing it on to their children.