Fayona Thompson moved from Baltimore to York in 2018 looking for a change. As a past driver for Maryland Transit Authority, she starting driving school buses to provide for her family. It was OK. But, as a single mom of two, she wanted to be home more with her kids.
Relying on her past work experience in early childhood, daycare, and camp settings, she applied to be an assistant teacher with the Head Start program at Community Progress Council.
“I was managing, but not really,” Fayona said. “I was just trying to get by every day as a single mom.”
Working in Community Progress Council’s main building on College Avenue, Fayona heard about the different opportunities and resources available to people looking to make progress on their path toward economic independence, including “Getting Ahead in A Just Gettin’ By World.”
“At first I was a little scared, because I don’t really talk about my life,” Fayona said. Over the 16-week program, she opened up to her co-investigators as they shared how poverty impacted their lives. “I learned a lot. I was like, all right, I can share my story. I got connected with more people.”
Fayona wanted to work toward big goals: Improving her credit, going back to school, and buying her first home. It came down, she says, to getting more knowledge about finances, how she could build her credit, how to budget, and how to prioritize — things she simply hadn’t learned growing up.
“When you’re trying to get by, you’re like, I just need something quick,” Fayona said. But her perspective changed after Getting Ahead. “No, I’m gonna take my time, read, investigate, ask questions,” she said. “Never be afraid to ask questions.”
Thanks to child care provided as part of the Getting Ahead program, Fayona’s children grew up in the program with her, every step of the way. She also had the support and encouragement of her coach through Community Progress Council.
“My coach is very trusting, easy to talk to, very understanding,” Fayona said. “I don’t feel judged when I talk to her.”
Her perseverance working is paying off: Next year, her goal is to buy her own home. Nothing too big, she says — Fayona is already looking ahead to sending her kids off on their next adventures. Her son, 12, wants to be an architect; her daughter, 5, wants to be a gymnast or a nurse.
As for her goal to go back to school, Fayona enrolled at Eastern University for her bachelor’s degree, supported in part by the tuition reimbursement offered by Community Progress Council for Head Start teachers. She anticipates celebrating her graduation in June 2023.
“At the end, I know it’s rewarding, for my children, not just me,” Fayona said. “They can see Mommy did it.”
Five years from now, Fayona jokes about being on a beach somewhere. But she also hopes to continue learning and expanding through the resources Community Progress Council has to offer. Recently, she’s been thinking about becoming a counselor for young children, providing the opportunity to talk to someone about feelings they might not be able to express anywhere else.
It’s a need that Fayona has seen firsthand in the classroom, as she works to develop trust with the children and families she serves through Head Start.
“Once you develop that trust with the parents and the children, they open up to you, they tell you what’s going on,” she said. “Then it’s, ‘OK, how can I help, what do you need.’”
And although she herself was shy at first, she now considers Community Progress Council her family.
“I feel more open telling my story,” Fayona said. “I’m not the only one going through something, and it’s not too late. I’m never too old to learn.”
“Community Progress Council is here to help. All you need to do is go, ask, make the connection.”