Celeste grew up in foster care in Phoenix. When she was 18 years old, she moved in with a boyfriend who abused her emotionally, physically, and sexually. That same year, she had her first child. The abuse continued, but Celeste lacked the self-confidence and the resources to leave. It would take another pregnancy, the help of Live & Learn, and her realizing her own strength before she would change her life.

At age 22, finding herself pregnant a second time, Celeste experienced “a feeling of responsibility for my children that made me realize I had to make a better life for their sake.” She was accepted into the Year Up AZ program. Then, just as quickly, she dropped out. “I couldn’t figure it all out: transportation, money, childcare. The real problem, I realized, was him.” 

After five years, Celeste left her abuser. She and her children moved to Apache Junction, a town 40 miles outside of Phoenix and inaccessible by public transportation. Finally, Celeste felt ready to pursue a career—and a better life.

This is my comeback. I’m not stopping and starting again. No matter what.

To make this happen, Celeste joined Live & Learn. She pursued the TOTAL Career Pathway and returned to Year Up’s career training program. In order to arrive at school on time, Celeste had to wake her children at 2:30am every day. They walked or, occasionally, got a ride to the nearest bus stop in Mesa, AZ. From there, they took a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride to her children’s daycare. Celeste continued another 30 minutes on the bus to arrive at school at Gateway Community College. At 4:30pm, Celeste began the whole journey in reverse, reconnecting with her children and arriving home by 9pm.

Live & Learn supported Celeste through every difficult step of this journey. Our Mentor Program helped her cope with the stress of her current situation and heal from the trauma of her past. She received Supplemental Support, including bus passes, bill payment assistance, and gift cards to purchase required professional clothing. These are costs that would have otherwise derailed her. 

Celeste completed her career training and her internship. In fact, she performed so well at her internship with Chase Bank that they offered her a full-time job with benefits, which she will begin at the end of summer 2019.

Plans for the Future

Celeste is saving for a car of her own, which will cut her family’s commute by hours each week. As she works at Chase Bank, she plans to continue her education and earn her Associate’s Degree in Business. One day, she dreams of having a home of her own, where her children will feel loved and safe.

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