Twenty-six-year-old Quatisha Jackson lives with her mother, sister, nieces, and nephews in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family struggles with disabilities and mental illness, which is what prompted Quatisha to take on the responsibility of caring for them. Quatisha faced struggles of her own due to an undiagnosed learning disability. She initially changed schools in an attempt to improve her academics, but she continued to encounter barriers and ended up dropping out of high school. Fortunately, she sought a diagnosis from Children’s Hospital. They were finally able to label her learning disabilities, dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In her late teens, with a diagnosis in hand, Quatisha was able to seek assistance through various agencies, but it wasn’t until she came to Santa Maria Community Services that she finally found programs that resonated with her.
At Santa Maria, Quatisha met Workforce Coach, Kelsie Wilkens, who would become her mentor. Despite the many barriers she faced, Quatisha felt like she could flourish at Santa Maria. Her first major challenge was working toward obtaining her High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. Quatisha was frightened at first, due to her learning disabilities, but with Kelsie’s help she was able to persevere and obtain her HSE in December 2013. Kelsie also helped Quatisha learn life skills like taking care of herself, going to work and school, and managing her mental health, all the while taking care of her family. Kelsie said, “Quatisha stops at nothing. She is hard working, determined, and will GET IT DONE.”
Quatisha then enrolled in employment coaching through Santa Maria’s Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP). In CCMEP, Quatisha gained valuable work experience at IKRON, where she earned a certificate for food safety called ServSafe®. Continuing on this path, Quatisha also acquired a certificate and license to work in the fine dining industry with funding assistance from Santa Maria. With these certifications under her belt, she was offered a job at Duke Energy Convention Center for a management position at a fine dining establishment.
With a job secured, Quatisha wanted to learn more about finances, so she enrolled in Santa Maria’s financial coaching program. Her new case worker, Destiny Simone, provided Quatisha and her mother, Esterlita Williams, the opportunity to take a finance course where they both completed a certificate and learned about generational wealth and finances. In this course, with materials developed by Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program, Quatisha and Esterlita learned how to use their income to overcome debt and generate wealth.
With Destiny’s help, Quatisha learned about and was able to set healthy boundaries while being able to take care of her family and still accomplish her own goals. Quatisha said, “Destiny and I connected a couple years ago. She’s very kind and patient and hands-on, which is great.” She said Destiny would call her every week to make sure Quatisha was on track to achieving her goals, and ask if she could help with anything. Quatisha found this level of support vital for her success. In September 2020, Destiny was able to connect Quatisha’s family with Project LIFT funding to help enroll them in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP) through Duke Energy to assist with utility payments. Santa Maria is a sponsor agency for Project LIFT which is designed to fill in the gaps and remove barriers that hold families back from thriving.
Quatisha has a lot planned for her future. First and foremost is getting her own company off the ground. Quatisha is in the process of creating her own e-commerce business where she will be selling clothing. Her target customers are Millennials and Gen Z. With help from Santa Maria, Quatisha took a few business and entrepreneurship classes from the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative. Her next step is to create more connections through networking and learn about legal aspects of owning a small business such as applying for a business license and creating trademarks.
Quatisha has big dreams, from visiting China and learning to speak Mandarin to growing her business. She would also love to one day be in the position to give back to the community. One idea she has is for a nonprofit that creates housing for nonviolent offenders who also suffer from mental illness.
Quatisha knows her dreams are possible with the help of Santa Maria. She encourages anyone considering using Santa Maria’s services, “If you think you do not have the support you need from your community or your family, you will get it from Santa Maria.” Quatisha thanks donors for their investment in the lives of our community members and looks forward to becoming a donor herself someday.