Misty: “There Was No One Else”

Misty’s phone rang. It wasn’t unusual for her daughter, Jaritza, to occasionally call her to say hi from St. Teresa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where she worked as a licensed nursing assistant (LNA). But this time was different.

“Mom,” Jaritza said excitedly, “You should come work here.”

Misty replied, puzzled, “Why?”

“You always wanted to be a nurse,” Jaritza went on, “and Catholic Charities has a scholarship for school that you can get if you work here for a year.”

Intrigued, Misty briefly put the phone down. Her mind traveled back in time 20 years, when she was the same age as Jaritza and received her LNA certificate at St. Teresa. She smiled.

This would be her chance to realize a dream, going full circle with St. Teresa, and with Catholic Charities NH too. In fact, Misty’s life is sprinkled with life-altering Catholic Charities encounters dating back to when she was 15 years old.

Locked Out

Growing up in Manchester was not easy for Misty Rodriguez, especially during her early teen years when her mother decided that she no longer wanted to care for her and her older sister. First, the food was locked up and eventually the door to their apartment, leaving Misty to sleep in the hallway.

“Then I’d get up and go to my friend’s house to shower and get ready for school,” she recalls. “I had met him at the Boys Club and I eventually started sleeping at his house more often than not.”

The two teens began a relationship that would turn abusive, with Misty soon discovering she was pregnant.

“I was 15 and pregnant, and I wasn’t eating well or sleeping,” she says, “I had no support. That’s where Our Place became a huge thing for me.”

Misty in 1997, pregnant with her first child at age 15.

Our Place: The Beginning

Misty’s situation attracted the attention of the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and her high school, which initiated her first contact with Catholic Charities.

“I received a phone call from her guidance counselor who said she had a young lady that she wanted to send to our program,” remembers Cherie Bammarito, who first met Misty in 1997, as a social worker at Our Place, which provides pregnancy, parenting and life skills education and resources for parents of children at risk of growing up in unsafe and unhealthy environments. “So, I met Misty – 15 years old, hungry, and she was being placed in foster care, pregnant.”

Misty had a lot to learn about nutrition and what to expect in her pregnancy, but Cherie was there to guide her and the two of them hit it off right away.

“I was going to high school and then I would walk across the bridge and go to Our Place,” recalls Misty. “I just wanted to talk with Cherie more and more. She cared, she really, really cared.”

At the age of 16, Misty gave birth to a healthy boy named Keith. Mother and son lived in the foster home and Cherie continued to help Misty navigate the early years of Keith’s life and find new opportunities for herself.

With baby Keith alongside, Misty attends to schoolwork.

Two Grants and the Start of a Dream

Attending high school as a single mom was difficult for Misty, but an alternative emerged when Our Place received a grant to pay for General Education Development (GED’s) for some of its clients. Cherie persuaded Misty to go for it.

“I didn’t think I was smart enough,” says Misty. “But Cherie said, ‘yes you are and I will help you.’ I would have never done that if it wasn’t for her, and looking back, it was a huge deal.”

Misty earned her GED and, once again, she benefitted from good timing. Cherie learned that Catholic Charities received another grant that paid for Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA) classes.

“Misty had already spoken about wanting to help people and ultimately becoming a nurse,” Cherie recalls. “So the next logical step was for her to get her LNA license and she passed with flying colors.”

Misty attended the classes and when she received her LNA certificate at St. Teresa’s in 2000, with two-year-old Keith in attendance. Mom and son were moving forward in life.

Misty and Keith at St. Teresa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on the day she received her LNA certificate in 2000.

Marriage, Family and Devastating News

During these years, Misty reconnected with an old friend from her early teens at the Boy’s Club. Daniel Rodriguez came to the United States with his family when he was six years old, from his native Mexico, and lived in Manchester. Their rekindled friendship soon evolved into romance and eventually marriage, not long after Misty became an LNA.

Despite the difficult circumstances of her childhood, Misty had her heart set on creating a big, loving family. Now married, she became pregnant with her second child, and she was on her way. But soon after she received that joyous news, her life was flipped upside down – Daniel was being deported.

“I just found out I was pregnant, and then we find out that he has deportation status and has to go wait in his country before he could return,” she remembers. “Thankfully, I wasn’t completely alone because I had Cherie to lean on for support, but this was a complicated legal issue, and I needed help.”

Misty’s exhaustive search for legal help resulted in yet another encounter with Catholic Charities NH, with the Immigration Legal Services team taking on her case, one that she hoped would bring her husband back. Immigration Legal Services provides high-quality, affordable services for individuals who are eligible under federal law to receive legal assistance.

“You have to prove that he went to school here, that he was a good citizen and that the marriage was valid,” says Misty. “The lawyers from Catholic Charities did all of that and filed all the paperwork. They also answered all my questions while we waited.”

Fortunately, the wait was not too long. Daniel was granted resident status shortly after the birth of their daughter, Jaritza.

“I remember having a mix of emotions,” Misty says. “I was really excited but I kept wondering, ‘Is this really happening, could it happen again?’ But they said it was official and he was here to stay.”

Over the next 15 years, Daniel, who works as a maintenance mechanic, took things to an even more permanent level, officially becoming a US citizen in 2021.

Family life: Misty with her husband, Daniel, and her four children.

Misty’s Dream Finds a Pathway

Misty’s wish for the big, loving family that she never had, came true in the next few years with the births of two more children, Maricella and Daniel. Raising children was her top priority for the next two decades, as she set aside career aspirations – until the phone rang on that winter day in 2021.

“When Jaritza called and said I should go back to St. Teresa, I was already thinking that the kids are older now and maybe it would be good to venture out and pursue nursing again,” says Misty. “She told me about the scholarship and I told her, ‘I’m going to do it’ – 20 years after I first got my LNA, at St. Teresa’s!”

The donor-supported Pathways program provides career development and advancement opportunities for select Catholic Charities employees to begin an LNA program, or advanced nursing skills as an LPN or RN. Misty worked the twelve months, applied and was accepted into the LPN program, and started classes right away, on a full-tuition scholarship.

“School was about 13 months and during that time, I worked 32 hours each week, but they paid me for 40 hours, which was a big help to our family,” Misty remembers. “I went to school full-time and I studied full-time – it was a lot of work but I’m now an LPN.”

“A tough road to get here”

Over the course of 25 years, from being abandoned and pregnant in her mid-teens and nearly losing her husband a few years later, to raising a family and ultimately achieving her goal of becoming a nurse, life has thrown a lot at Misty, but those who know her best are not surprised that she is where she is today.

“Misty is a wonderful role model,” says Cherie, who stays in touch with Misty to this day. “She is somebody who knows how to work with the tools when she’s given them and she doesn’t give up on herself.”

Misty today, with her son Keith (l) and former Our Place social worker, Cherie Bammarito (r)

Misty’s oldest son, Keith, now 25, looks back and marvels at his mom and is thankful that Catholic Charities was there for her when she needed help.

“I really look up to my mom,” he says. “Obviously she’s had setbacks but they didn’t stop her. She was going to find a way no matter what. And it’s pretty awesome how Catholic Charities put her in a position to succeed – and now she’s in a position to give back.”

Catholic Charities NH and its supporters touched Misty’s life in so many ways – through Our Place, the GED and LNA grants, Immigration Legal Services, St. Teresa Nursing Home and the Pathways scholarship. Even now Misty can’t believe how big a role these programs played in her journey.

“All the programs I worked with that were the most significant in my life – from bringing children into this world, to keeping my family together, to now fulfilling my dream of being a nurse – there was no one else that I could find to help, Catholic Charities was the only organization I found that could help.,” she says, “I’m so thankful for the donors from years ago to today – it’s more than a donation, it’s changing a life. I’ll be forever grateful.”

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