Luisa grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and moved down to Spring Hope, North Carolina, with her mother at age 12. As an adult, she went back and forth between the two states, but stayed in Reading for two years after having her son Jamarii in 2019. Leaving a domestic situation, Luisa came back to North Carolina in July 2021 and stayed with family and friends. 

Luisa wanted to create a better life for herself and Jamarii. With the help of her niece, she found Raleigh Rescue Mission and enrolled in the New Life Plan in October 2021.

“I thought I might as well just help myself and help my son, so I came here,” she said. “I grew up in foster care. After I turned 17, I never fit in my family. I always felt that way, so I was always all over the place. I would go back and forth and never be stable and hang with the wrong crowd. So, what made me want to come here was my son.”

For vocational training, Luisa did janitorial work on the women’s floor and also joined Chef Ron’s kitchen staff. She found Jobs for Life to be inspirational. 

“I learned something new every day,” she said. “Miss Twanda was one of my teachers. She helps you walk through things and lets you voice your opinions and ask questions. Everybody had to participate.”

Luisa describes herself as “not the biggest talker,” but Jobs for Life gave her a space to find her voice.

“It helped me be more vocal because before I came here, unless I was comfortable, you actually couldn’t get me to talk,” she said, reflecting on how she’s changed. “It helped me to put myself out there a little bit more, and it taught me how to speak up.”

Raising an active toddler living the Mission proved to be a challenge. “As far as Jamarii goes, it was hectic,” said Luisa. “He was younger, so he always just wanted to run over every inch of the building.”

Jamarii stayed in the Children’s Development Center while Luisa progressed through the phases. “He needed the structure. I needed the structure,” she said. “I had to do something that would give him that structure, and it would teach me structure, too.”

In the times when Luisa felt the emotional weight and was ready to give up, she received support through her Client Success Managers. 

“It was hard. It was really hard,” she said. “When I first came, I had a CSM named Ms. Lauren. After she left, I got lucky enough to have Ms. Vonisha. That was the best matchup ever. I just love her. She definitely helped me through my emotional tasks and everything else I’ve been through. I’m very grateful for her.”

Some highlights during Luisa’s time living at the Mission were getting her license for the first time, graduating from Jobs for Life and reaching the halfway mark in the program, and winning the Christmas door decorating contest.

Luisa also remembers the feeling of family. “Even though the staff here are workers, they try their best to treat you like a person rather than a client,” she said.

Despite being someone who keeps to herself, Luisa became close friends with the other clients. “I bonded with some of the women who had the same struggles as me,” she said. “It taught me to be grateful for the things I don’t have, but I do have a lot, so it definitely made me grateful to learn other people’s stories.”

In November, Luisa and Jamarii moved into an apartment near NC State, and Luisa works in shipping at Temposonics in Cary. She bought her first car, which was stolen, but she has since secured a replacement. Jamarii just celebrated his fourth birthday in May, and he loves dinosaurs and playing games.

Looking forward, Luisa wants to get her GED, ultimately going to college and getting a degree in social work, a passion spurred on by her experience in foster care.

“I want to be able to give back to kids who are going through the system, because I know how it felt and what I’ve been through,” she said. “I want to be able to let them know you’re not alone and everything’s going to be okay, and if you need the support, you have it.”

As a mom, Luisa has grown in being patient and understanding with her son. “I’ve learned to understand his needs and his wants and to keep providing and protecting him, and to make him first in my life.”

Luisa’s faith in God has also grown, continuing to do daily devotions, praying, and thanking God for His presence. 

“I wouldn’t have gotten through it without Him,” she said. “I learned to have faith in Him and to never question the plans He has for me because He puts you through that for a reason.”

Luisa is also thankful for those who have invested in the Mission. “Thank you for supporting the Mission and myself and my child. It goes a long way. I couldn’t have done it without you, because without you, there’s no Mission!” she laughed.

“It helped me to put myself out there a little bit more, and it taught me how to speak up.”