Rita first came to Catholic Charities New Hampshire as a volunteer. As one of 11 children, she tagged along with her mother, Karen, to St. Vincent de Paul Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Berlin where she loved to do the nails of the residents, sharing laughter and fun with everyone.
But then tragedy struck the family.
Rita’s mother fought a courageous battle against melanoma and passed away when Rita was only eight years old. Her father did his best to provide for his 11 children. Rita knew, however, she would have an uphill road for her to achieve her dream of attending college.
That was when Rita reached out to Catholic Charities New Hampshire and Nicole Plourde, Deputy Director of Parish & Community Services at the Berlin district office for some guidance. For the first time, Rita was not a volunteer. She was someone who desperately needed help.
“Rita has always been determined,” Nicole says. “Her mother was an amazing, faith-filled woman who was the first to volunteer her energy and talents at the church and elsewhere. It was now time for us to help her daughter.”
It started with education.
“Without Nicole, I wouldn’t have made it to college,” Rita recalls.
Nicole helped Rita establish an Individual Development Account (IDA) through the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Rita set aside money in the account, which was matched through the program – and with that money, she was able to pay for a community college education. This led to her first job as support staff at Milan Village School.
“Nicole helped me build my resume,” Rita remembers. “She gives so much to those she helps.”
But Rita wasn’t done, and Nicole was ready to help her achieve more.
“With Nicole’s support, I was able to complete my associate’s degree to be an early intervention paraprofessional,” Rita explains. “I waited tables, worked at the Milan Village School, and used the funds from my IDA, but I did it.”
Rita continues to meet with Nicole to work on her Life Plan, an assessment of one’s major life challenges and a set of strategic goals aimed at overcoming them. It’s this continual check-in that prevented Rita from being blocked in her path to her bachelor’s degree.
“The IDA program with the Community Loan Fund was cut from the government’s budget,” Nicole explains. “We had to find a different way for Rita to continue in school.”
This could have derailed Rita’s efforts, but it didn’t. Nicole stepped in with another plan.
“Nicole worked with me on updating my resume, so I was able to obtain a better full-time job with benefits. Even more, it has the future potential of paying some of my tuition,” Rita says, happiness evident in her tone.
Rita is now an early intervention paraprofessional at the Berlin schools. She still waits tables, she says, because she’s determined to finish her degree without student loans.
“I’ve learned to keep trying to make the right steps,” she says. “Help is out there in your community. You just need to have the courage to go ask for it.”
And thanks to her mom’s connection with Catholic Charities New Hampshire, and the generosity of donors who make these programs possible, Rita was able to get that help. Now she’s taking it all the way to her ultimate goal.
“I want to be a financially stable adult when I get out of college,” Rita says with determination. “And I’m going to do it the smartest way possible.”