Gwen is a motivator, a school bus driver, an educator, and a woman who inspires. After participating in CEF’s classes herself, Gwen now teaches our classes and makes it her personal goal to lift up the spirits and self-confidence of her class participants – the majority of whom are current residents at the women’s shelter. Gwen became homeless when she had to make the choice between paying her rent or paying her youngest son’s college tuition. She chose to invest in her son’s future, and without regret, was homeless for a year while working to get back on her feet.
Gwen brings a prophetic energy and oratory to CEF’s Sunday afternoon classes. Each week, in addition to teaching skills like budgeting, interviewing, and conflict resolution, Gwen introduces a theme to the women. Themes such as “I never give up on…”, “Gratitude,” and “I’ve got this.”
One participant remarked, “This is more of a sisterhood than a class.”
And it’s true! As Gwen puts it, “My goal for the Sunday Opportunity Classes is to lift the women’s spirits up. We have a lot of depression going on there at the shelter, and the women really need a group and a time that can be there to push them up and tell them not to give up. So I want the class to teach them life skills, and basically, survival skills. I enjoy doing this because I have been there and been through it.”
Gwen truly has come full circle. During class a couple months ago, after teaching a two-hour session about how to ace a job interview, Gwen mentioned to the women that just a year ago she was living at the shelter. The jaws of all the new participants dropped, and one exclaimed, “You have got to be kidding me!” It is a humbling experience to see the way the women’s eyes light up, the way they sit up a little bit taller, with the subtle reminder that, “Yes, I can do this. Gwen did this, and so can I.”
Continuing in her personal strides towards long-term success, Gwen is also a pilot participant in our Renter’s Savings IDA Program. We are so thankful for Gwen and her leadership, uplifting and inspiring many women who will follow in her footsteps.