Denise dropped out of school at age 16 (9th grade) and started using and selling drugs. As a result of her addiction, Denise was convicted of a string of misdemeanors and felonies and served several jail and prison terms. High risk activities associated with drug addiction took their toll and Denise learned that she was HIV positive.
Devastated by this news, Denise determined that she would fight for her health and conquer her addiction. By the time Denise was released prison for the last time, she had confronted the issues that drove her to addiction and has remained drug free since 1993. Upon her release from prison, Denise found out quickly that she would face many challenges in the years to come.
She struggled to get her life back on track while living with her brother and his family who offered her some support. But, Denise wanted more; she wanted to be self-sufficient. Denise’s brother was able to get her a job at his place of employment making minimum wage, which at the time was $5.76 an hour. From this point onward she started getting her life back on track. Eventually, she landed a job as a peer educator which paid a bit more, but still kept her earnings below poverty level.
Denise knew that there was a better future waiting for her. She believed that education was necessary if she were to take control of her destiny and achieve her goal of self-sufficiency.
She learned about CCF from a friend, and joined in 2005. Denise had always wanted a GED, and with CCF’s help she enrolled in a GED program that offered credit toward an Associate degree at Touro College. She earned her Associate degree from Touro in June 2008. She remained with CCF and continued her studies.
Denise has been part of CCF’s tutoring and mentoring program and is an active member of the Theater for Social Change, which has given her a forum to express her feelings about her struggles and victories. Denise is extremely proud that this June she will obtain her Bachelor’s degree in human services with a concentration in addiction studies.
In Denise’s words, “CCF has helped me to achieve my educational goals and fulfill my lifelong dream of getting a college degree in a field that will allow me to help people in need. I am about to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from Touro College and I am going to continue work to help others conquer addiction problems.”
Denise now sees herself moving toward a brighter future than she imagined during her youth. Currently, she works as a community resource specialist at the Osborne Association and is no longer earning a wage that keeps her beneath poverty level. She remains drug free and has been connected to resources in the community to deal with her health concerns. Having accomplished such major goals in the face of so many obstacles, Denise has begun to craft a new vision. She dreams that one day she will be able to start a program for formerly incarcerated adults who have addiction issues.
Knowing how determined and tenacious Denise is, we at CCF believe that one day you will hear about her again, not as a participant of CCF, but as the founder of her own organization seeking your support!