Stephanie fondly remembers watching music videos, dressed up in her mother’s heels, and replicating the dance moves, but it wasn’t until Fred Astaire Dance Studios that she realized her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Today, she teaches dance for a living in the southside of Chicago. Though she never pictured herself as a teacher, she hopes that her students will understand they have the opportunity to use what life throws at them, that it is okay not to be okay, and there are strategies for letting go of the hard things and letting in the good.
While Stephanie’s dream of earning a living through dance has come true, her journey hasn’t always been smooth. As the only working parent of 8-year-old daughter Nyahbella, and a 1-year-old son Nolan, expenses started piling up. That’s why her enrollment in LIFT-Chicago and the unrestricted cash payments from the Family Goal Fund and the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, were gamechangers. As someone who grew up in poverty, she recognizes the importance of having a roof over your head and food in the fridge and knows how to find warmth and love with each other. The guaranteed cash payments from LIFT not only help her family pay the bills, but also provide a happy and healthy childhood for her kids.
Dance has been a pathway for Stephanie to change her relationship with her mental health, and the cash assistance she has received has been a way to amplify that. The money helps her worry less about finances and focus more on her family’s well-being. “Anxiety is a real living thing that people are dealing with. It’s not shameful, it’s something we are all going through and it’s okay to talk about it,” said Stephanie, “Money was my biggest trigger. The finances were huge because I wanted to make sure we always had money in the bank account and food and necessities but also, I didn’t have much growing up, so I wanted to give my daughter so much more.” She’s focused on her own wellness, but she’s also trying to model something different for her daughter and the Chicago community she serves, about the ways we manage trauma and the bumpy roads that life sometime brings our way.
Stephanie’s journey with LIFT is a true testament to the success of investing directly in parents. When asked what the direct cash payments she receives make possible for her and her family, Stephanie directly alluded to the power of Hope, Money and Love. “They provide Hope — hope that I will pay off my debts sooner. Time — time to spend on laughing instead of dread. And Love — allowing the goodness of life to come in, because when you spend so much time worrying about money there’s less time for the good things in life.”
To learn more about Stephanie’s journey and how guaranteed income makes her feel like there’s “light every single day” check out her interview on the Economic Security Project’s podcast GUARANTEED with Eve L. Ewing.