How Wake County’s StepUp Ministry Changed This Woman’s Life Through Employment And Job Skills Training
Teresa McNair has already experienced more trauma than many people will experience in a lifetime. She lost her younger brother as a child, has battled and overcome addiction, and has established a criminal history in multiple North Carolina counties.
But the day she lost her mom to lung cancer in 2014 was the last straw. That was the day her support system became virtually nonexistent.
Teresa began to lean on bad decisions as a way to cope and just a year after her mother’s death, she was sentenced to 28 months in prison. Teresa realized that she’d been searching for answers in all the wrong places and decided to change her mindset and steer her life in a new direction.
After being released from prison, Teresa moved into a transitional home and they asked her to complete Employment Week at StepUp Ministry — a United Way-funded nonprofit organization — in order to stay. Despite her initial fears and speculations, she remembers a strong sense of community throughout the week. She saw that everyone in attendance was there to better their lives or help others do so.
Teresa gained employment at Carroll’s Kitchen soon after. She continued on to StepUp’s Life Skills Program, where she learned “nuggets that would help [her] for a lifetime” in each of the four phases.
Emmett Haywood, a local attorney, came into Teresa’s life in Phase 2 as her mentor. “[Emmett] helped me see myself differently,” Teresa said. “She cared about me and didn’t just see my past. She would encourage me and assured me I could get through it.”
Emmett was instrumental in Teresa’s judicial battles, most importantly helping her erase her criminal history.
“[She] has a kind and grateful heart. She was open to our guidance and ready for the responsibility,” explained Emmett.
Along with StepUp Ministry employee Toneisha Williams, Emmett also helped Teresa improve her credit. “Toneisha walked beside me and told me I could succeed,” Teresa told StepUp. “Relationships like these give me hope.”
Teresa is now a homeowner and owns a car that she uses for her commute. After furnishing her new home, Teresa, her 17-year-old daughter Khasania, and two grandchildren Aubrey and Olivia were able to move in.
Teresa has since been promoted to Shift Manager at Carroll’s Kitchen, become involved with the StepUp Alumni Program, joined their Toastmaster’s program where she’s making tremendous strides in her public speaking abilities.
“After 20 years of bad decisions, I got my mental self straight. I’m processing what’s going on with my daughter. I don’t want her to waste 30 years [as] I did,” Teresa said. “I am so grateful for the community that I have. I used to be very isolated, and I communicated with the wrong people for the wrong reasons.”
The last 30 years of Teresa’s life have been a whirlwind of trials and tribulations but she persevered and has transformed her life through employment and StepUp Ministry’s Life Skills training. Teresa said she has to pinch herself at times. “I have been blessed with this [opportunity]. It didn’t seem possible three years ago.”
StepUp Ministry is helping adults and children transform their lives through employment and life skills training. Thanks in part to a $25,000 grant from United Way of the Greater Triangle, the Wake County organization expects to help 32 of their clients experience career growth or advancement.