Hello, my name is Samantha (she/her/hers) and I’m the Program and Operations Coordinator at LIFT-Chicago and a former LIFT Coach! Growing up as a Hispanic child, I was frequently reminded about our family’s immigration story. I often cursed it, not understanding why I had to hear the exact same story over and over. Only in adulthood did I realize it was so I could understand the depth of my grandmother’s sacrifice to bring her children to this land of opportunity and with this understanding, I truly appreciate and honor that sacrifice.
My grandmother had a hard life. She was married at 14 when her grandmother could no longer afford to house her, and her husband eventually left her with 11 children to raise on her own. Despite these hardships, I remember my grandmother as the most loving, giving, and uplifting person I had ever met. She would always tell us “una vida egoísta es una vida desperdiciada, or a self-serving life is a life wasted.” She spent her days volunteering at her church, preparing meals for the homeless, and doing hospice visits. With such an incredible role model like this, many of her children went into giving-centered careers such as teaching and social work. I was one of the teachers.
I earned my Bachelor’s in Secondary Education with a certificate in Special Education from Arizona State University. My first official teaching position was in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on Chicago’s West side. While I thoroughly enjoyed my role and my students, I found myself yearning for more time to address my students’ family hardships. Many of their academic struggles were closely tied to economic hardship and lack of community resources. I decided to return to school, wanting to shift from a profession in education to one in social work.
That’s how I first connected with LIFT. I had indicated on my field placement interest form that I was interested in working with predominantly women, children, and families of color. After looking at the LIFT website, I immediately felt connected to the mission of uplifting parents through Hope, Money, and Love.
Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of providing one on one coaching for 17 incredible LIFT members, each one with a unique goal. I’ve assisted my members in paying down debt, securing benefits, returning to school, applying for educational grants and scholarships, securing higher paying jobs, building credit, and more.
I’ve often reflected on my own difficult journey as a parent and wished I had someone like a LIFT coach in my corner. I was a teen mom. My husband and I were on SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC for many years to support our son and still barely scraped by despite our extensive support system. Many of my members have a limited support system. They are single moms, former foster youth, domestic violence victims and more. Many of my members share that LIFT is their ONLY support system. It is this harsh reality that makes what I do that much more of an honor because I get to walk alongside my members in their most challenging and vulnerable hours.
In this role I will be the first point of contact for those interested in enrolling in our program. I will also be assisting with recruitment, planning member events, data entry and maintenance tasks. In the future I see myself continuing to grow within LIFT while further expanding my volunteer work, which centers around increasing access to quality education for Hispanic youth.
I have recently started a full-time position with LIFT-Chicago as the new Program and Operations Coordinator. In this role I am the first point of contact for those interested in enrolling in our program, assisting with recruitment and planning member events. I see myself continuing to grow within LIFT while further expanding my volunteer work of increasing access to quality education for Hispanic youth. I hope to increase LIFT’s network and deepen my impact as their Program and Operations Coordinator. I am looking forward to a fantastic year ahead, full of growth, connection, and impact!