Changing Lives

Woman gets second chance to give her family a better lifeLatisha_Star_Ledger.jpg
By Janelle Griffith | NJ Advance Media for The Star-Ledger

For Latisha Coleman, life as an adult was not as she
imagined it would be. Coleman had grown up witnessing domestic violence, which took a toll on her personally and academically. By the 10th grade, her reading and math skills were so low that she never participated in class. She sought acceptance from others by behaving provocatively.

At 18, Coleman had her first child with two more to follow within the next five years. Last year, she hit her lowest point – a homeless single parent with no job prospects that would provide her a living wage. She had never finished high school or earned her GED. She had also spent years in an abusive relationship. “My daughter’s father used to beat me.”

Fearing for her safety and with no means to provide for herself, she stayed with her abuser for several years. “I escaped because I sent him to jail. Once he went to jail, I was able to get away,” Coleman says.

Coleman spent six months living at Apostle House shelter in Newark last year, where she would learn harsh lessons in accountability and trust. “You have to sleep with your belongings…Everybody who works there is not there to help you.” Coleman says of her experience. “It was hard for me to stay strong but I did it for my three kids.”

Soon after, she was referred to the Urban League of Essex County – an agency supported by the Greater Newark Holiday Fund. The Urban League helped Coleman to get her life back on track. She met with a counselor from the UYEP WORKS (Urban Youth Empowerment) Program, whose services include career-readiness training as well as assistance on resume building. Coleman expressed an interest in becoming either a daycare worker or a home health aide because of her desire to help others and her love of children.

Coleman was enrolled in a GED program and takes courses Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Staff at the Urban League also helped Coleman secure an apartment in which she and her kids could live.

“The Urban League provided me with help with getting an apartment, finishing school, keeping me focused and working toward fundamentals.” “If you just work hard and you try, you’ll actually make it. It’s never too late. There’s always a chance to do something with yourself,” she says. Coleman says the Urban League and agencies like it are important because “it gives you a second chance to start over.” It’s a lesson she hopes her children will learn.


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