“It used to really annoy mepeople in this building always smiling and giving me high-fives,” Patrice confessed, “Here I am, not able to make rent and you want me to smile?”

She laughed, “If you had told me then that one day I’d be the one walking these halls with that goofy smile, I never would have believed you.” 

When Patrice first came to CityLink in May of 2018 she was unemployed, facing eviction, and overwhelmed by several overdue bills. She had walked past the CityLink building for years without stepping foot inside. Eventually, she reached a point where she felt she needed help and decided to learn more about CityLink. 

She started off suspicious; “It took me a long time to believe the people here [at CityLink] actually cared about me. I thought it was all fake.”

She explained that growing up in the inner city, a sense of trust can be hard to build. “Why do you want to help me? Why are you pretending you care about me?” were the questions that filled her head while beginning at CityLink. 

While Patrice was slow to trust her service coordinator, Emily, she was willing to take the next step in the Service Plan that they created together. One of the first things in that plan was a dentist appointment on-site with the Cincinnati Health Department.

While that may seem like small help given Patrice’s more pressing needs, she explained, “Having my teeth fixed gave me a level of confidence I had never had before.” Shortly after her health appointments, with the assistance of a Cincinnati Works Job coach, she found a job, then two jobs, then three jobs. 

In the meantime, Patrice enrolled in SmartMoney financial education. “I may have known how to make money, but I had no clue how to keep it. I couldn’t keep five dollars in my pocket before meeting with Michelle [her Financial Counselor].” 

“Michelle didn’t just teach me how to budget, but why I need to budget. That made all the difference.” By setting challenging but attainable goals with Michelle, such as budgeting for a car, Patrice was regularly reminded where her savings could lead if she stayed disciplined. “That accountability saved me. I knew I’d have to show someone where my money was going.”

Along the way, Patrice found herself opening up to those around her. “People would always remember my name! They looked genuinely happy to see me. After a while, I just accepted that they really did care about me. Rachel, Michelle, Emilythey’re like family now.” 

Patrice recalled the day she got the keys to her car through ChangingGears, “It felt so good! I started to realize all that was possible when I hit that goal.”

But purchasing a car wasn’t her end goal. Months of hard work, long hours, and sacrifices resulted in Patrice’s latest milestone: over $10,000 in savings, earning her a spot in what Michelle has coined “The $10,000 Club.”

These massive accomplishments are just the beginning for Patrice. “Per Scholas is what’s next for me. My goal is to get my CompTIA A+ certification and work my way up from there.” In addition, Patrice is working with Michelle towards homeownership, something that she, “Never in a million years would have thought possible.” 

“My whole attitude has changed,” Patrice sighed with a smile. “I have to work hard, and I still have a long road ahead. Due to mistakes I made in the past, I’ll be paying some bills for as long as I live. I’m not saying it’s all perfect and easy, but I have peace and a sense of direction, and that feels pretty good.”  

With this newfound peace, she walks the halls of the center sharing a smile with those carrying heavy loads. If they look at her funny, she thinks to herself, “If only you knew where I’d come from. If only you knew…”