Ada’s smile is contagious. She carries a noticeable confidence. Her face lights up when she talks about her classes, her new gym routine, or playing with her daughter’s pet guinea pig, Chocolate Chip.

Just a little while ago, that wasn’t the case. In December 2018, Ada walked into EMPath’s office at the Whitter Street Apartments in Roxbury, where she lives. She was upset and was looking for help buying holiday gifts for her three daughters. Ada was unable to work after a back surgery, and began receiving disability benefits. She hardly left the house now and had become depressed. She wasn’t speaking to her family, and figured she’d missed her chance to go back to school. She also wondered how many hours she would be able to work without losing benefits.

When she first walked into the office, Ada met Diana, who would become her mentor. EMPath’s on-site office is part of the Whittier Choice Neighborhood, a federal grant initiative. EMPath was selected to provide economic mobility coaching to residents. As with all EMPath programs, participants and mentors meet, talk, and set long-term goals.

Since then, Ada’s progress has been striking.

She has enrolled in a GED class at the Notre Dame Education Center. She signed up for the gym, as well as a computer class and a homebuyers’ class. She began collecting flowers and other plants to fill her home – bamboo, orchids, lettuce, peppers. She started going to bingo with her family in Waltham on Friday nights, and even got to know her neighbors for the first time through community meetings and outings.

Diana says Ada “is like a different person.”

Today, Ada hopes to finish her GED by next year and then become a nurse. One of her goals, she says, is to move out of public housing.

Ada says her motivation and mindset have shifted completely. “I was always depressed, and now I’m just up and going,” she explains. “If it wasn’t because of EMPath, I don’t think I would be on this path I am today. There’s nothing stopping me now.”

She says EMPath has shown her that there’s somebody out there who really cares.

“EMPath, I think, has been the greatest thing I’ve come across. I feel like they’re not just EMPath. They’re my family. They’ve changed my life.”

Update: In spring 2020, Ada was offered a full-time permanent job as a unit coordinator at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Congratulations, Ada!

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