July 19, 2021

Bold steps. Extra boosts of motivation. 

When asked to consider how her life might be different had she not connected with the Family Self-Sufficiency Program in 2018, Kyana Cunningham pauses thoughtfully. 

“If I didn’t have the program, I just wouldn’t know about a lot of things that are available out there,” she says. “I guess I’d be searching on my own, trying to find funding.” 

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program ensures that people need not go it alone. Everyone needs support and information, and it takes encouragement and guidance to work toward goals. These are the foundational principles of the program, which was created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve those who are receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Participants craft a plan that will, over the course of five years, help them gain greater economic stability. 

“To have stability, that’s what I’m trying to get for me and my kids,” says Kyana, a mother of two daughters. She was drawn to the program by the desire to someday own her own home. And to, eventually, no longer need state assistance. 

“Everybody was helpful, they explained the ins and out of the programs,” says Kyana, who works part-time as a certified nursing assistant. Her action plan? To increase her credit score and work toward securing fulltime employment—at a higher pay grade.  

Kyana has made strides toward each goal, including a significant increase in her credit score. She has taken financial literacy workshops and the Way Finders First-time Homebuyers course. She is also currently participating in the FSS Homeownership Program, which, upon completion, provides $5,000 toward a down payment. 

Kyana works closely with Sonia Colon, a program specialist at Way Finders. “Sonia helped me to get involved with MassHire, to go about getting my phlebotomy certification,” she says. “I was hesitant at first, because I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I’d be too afraid of blood, honestly!” 

Taking bold steps—going out of her comfort zone for the benefit of her family—has been a recurring theme for Kyana over the years. As have her conversations with Sonia, which give her extra boosts of motivation. 

“Sometimes I felt like, ‘I’m not going to be able to do it!’” says Kyana, whether about opening a bank account or learning to draw blood. “And she gives me the motivation to, you know, keep pushing. She shows me different ways that I can go about certain things. And she stays in contact with me all the time, through whatever situation I’m in.” 

Kyana is grateful to Sonia and to the FSS Program, which she is set to graduate from in 2023, and would encourage any eligible people to connect with it.  

“It’s a good program,” says Kyana. “It gets you jumpstarted in whatever goals you want to accomplish.”