Rachel’s story appeared in our 2015 Annual Report and was shared, by Rachel, at our 2016 Gala.

Rachel could have fallen victim to the stereotype… teen mom who never finished high school, living in low-income housing, unable to find work, barely making ends meet… essentially living off the system. But not this girl, she was destined for so much more. She’d be lying if she told you it was easy, but Rachel is a fighter and she was determined to change her and her son’s lives. When asked, “What does it mean to have your son, Jayden?” Rachel immediately responded, “Everything. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if it wasn’t for him. Don’t even know what I’d be doing.”

Rachel was just 15 years old when she found out she was pregnant. A scared teenage girl, she wasn’t proud; she was embarrassed and ashamed. Rachel hid the truth for as long as she could, in many ways even from herself. “I think there might be two pictures of me when I was pregnant. I was in denial the whole time. I think it finally hit me two weeks after I had given birth that I actually had a child.” But that’s when Rachel’s denial ended. She didn’t bury her head in the sand. With a great deal of determination, Rachel finished high school one year early, while working and raising her son.

Rachel continued to advance her goals, completing her CNA and enrolling in the LPN program at GST BOCES. Now as a single mother of a 6-year-old and college student, Rachel decided to buy her first home. After finding information on Catholic Charities’ First Time Homebuyer Program, Rachel attended the necessary pre-purchase workshops, received her down payment assistance and became Catholic Charities’ youngest homebuyer, at only 20 years old. When asked, “What does this house mean to you?” Rachel responded, “a lot, I feel like I worked really hard to get it. I plan on staying here forever. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do with it eventually.”

Rachel’s story continues with aspirations of being an RN, buying and renting out a duplex by age 26 and continuing to raise her son in Elmira. “I want to be part of making Elmira a better place to live.” A doting mother, Rachel continues, “I hope one day he’ll look back and see everything that I went through. Hopefully, he’ll have even better circumstances to achieve what I did.” Rachel is a testament to the power of inner strength and drive. She is an amazing role model to other parents and even more importantly, to her son.

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