June 8, 2021

A lot can change over the course of five years. Especially when you've thoughtfully mapped out your educational and career goals and the steps needed to reach them. And connected with a mentor who is invested in your well-being. And committed to doing the work to improve relationships, one family meeting at a time.

The combination of mentorship, training, services and goal setting—spread over a period of 60 months—is at the heart of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program is open to those receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Participants create a plan that helps them move toward economic stability, then sign a contract to stick with it.

One compelling aspect of the program? As a participant’s income and share of rent increase, an escrow account is established. Upon successful completion of the program, participants may use these funds toward starting a business or going back to school, for example.

Celines Ramos linked up with the program in 2018, guided by Family Self-Sufficiency Specialist Luz White of Way Finders. At the top of Celines’ goal list: complete her GED. At the time, the mother of two was working part time at a pharmacy and also caring for her mother.

“Before the program, I wasn’t motivated, I wasn’t hungry,” says Celines. “Way Finders pushed me and made me realize how important getting my GED was to me. Every time I talked to Way Finders, they mentored me and kept me on the right path.”

In speaking of her mentor, Celines gushes openly and emphatically. “Every time I talk to Luz, it’s just amazing. She has just cleared my path and guided me a lot.”

A high point along Celines’ path came in 2020, when she completed her GED.

“I literally took the last test and was like, 'Yo, if I can do that, I’m going to take over the world’.”

This confidence propelled her to sit for her real estate license exam at the start of 2021.

By the time Celines is set to graduate from the Family Self-Sufficiency Program in 2023, she aspires to be working as an EMT. And when asked how she envisions using the funds from her escrow account? “My goal is to purchase a home. Or homes!”