Jennifer West arrived for the fall 2019 residential program after having just completed drug rehab. During those two weeks in Berea, the barriers and chains that had held her seemed to fall away, she explains. She learned it was okay to ask for help and not a sign of weakness—and that she was not doomed to a life of poverty.
This former resident of Madison County now lives in Cincinnati, where she works as a recruiter at a temp agency. She serves on the board of The Renewed Woman, which helps women and children impacted by domestic violence. Confident, strong, creative, artistic, positive, beautiful: This is how those who know her describe Jennifer today. But for many years she didn’t know these things about herself.
When Jennifer was in third grade, her father was in a freak accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. But her dad was determined to still provide for his family and went back to school to train in AutoCAD. What Jennifer saw in her father was a strong will that didn’t let what others might see as a barrier get in his way. For Jennifer this was an important lesson when she finally decided to do something about where she found herself: in abusive relationships and drug addiction.
In 2017 Jennifer sought out a drug recovery program. She began to realize that while she loved others and wanted to help others, she had never loved herself.
Attending the New Opportunity School for Women further supported Jennifer’s life-changing work. She learned that asking for help was not a sign of weakness. And she gained confidence that, through networking and making connections, opportunities would unfold.
Through perseverance, confidence and determination, Jennifer made her way to a better future. First, she went from earning $2.13 an hour plus tips at Waffle House to weathering unemployment due to COVID and waiting two months before receiving unemployment. But during that time she used her artistic talent to make designer hats.
Then she moved to Cincinnati, where she had relatives and thought job opportunities would be more plentiful. She found an entry-level job at the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities doing home visitations. While she liked the work, she couldn’t make ends meet on $10 an hour with no reimbursement for the 100-plus miles she traveled each week on the job.
One day she stopped at a temp service that was on her route, and she was hired as a recruiter. “I am now helping people just like me get jobs and stay with those jobs,” she explains enthusiastically.
Jennifer still experiences challenges now and then. But a good dose of determination and the NOSW Sisterhood continue to propel Jennifer forward.