The Boston Promise Initiative seeks to transform the Dudley Street neighborhood of Boston into the Dudley Village Campus (DVC), creating a neighborhood where every child guided from cradle to college to career by a village of caring adults and a range of services and support systems that form a neighborhood that functions like any of our region's world-class college campuses.
Nonprofits, Schools, State Agencies & Employers Collaborate with Determined Parents to Secure Safety, Stability and an Opportunity to Thrive in Roxbury & North Dorchester.
Cristel grew up in the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury. Even though she is the 2nd youngest of 7 siblings, she never fit the stereotype of a youngest child. Cristel became the glue that held the family together at a young age. She took care of everyone and was the support for her parents and all of her siblings. At the age of 16, Cristel became pregnant with her first child. She dropped out of high school, but didn’t let that stop her. She went on to earn her GED and worked at a retail store to support her family. Her job helped her pay some of the bills, but it wasn’t enough to pay rent so she continued to live with her father.
In 2014, now a mother of 3 children, Cristel was still taking care of her parents, brothers and sisters in addition to her own children. In November 2014, the situation at home became very challenging, and she was no longer able to stay with her father. She tried staying at different friends’ houses but soon realized this wasn’t what she wanted for her children. Cristel took her 6 year old daughter, 4 year old son and 8 month old son to the Department of Housing and Community Development to sign up for emergency shelter. Cristel and her children were placed in a hotel in Methuen, about 30 miles outside of Boston.
Earlier that year in September, her daughter had started the 1st grade at the Dudley Neighborhood Charter School (DNCS) in Roxbury where she thrived. Her daughter loved everything about the school, the teachers and her classmates. Cristel was devastated when she found out she would have to move with her children to Methuen. With a commute of over 2 hours by public transportation, she wasn’t sure how she would be able to keep her daughter enrolled in school. She was worried about how pulling her out of a school she loved would affect her daughter.
When the school heard about Cristel being placed in Methuen, they were very concerned about her options. They knew Cristel wouldn’t be able to get her daughter to school since it was so far away, and as a charter school, they could only hold her spot in that school for a limited time.
Cristel worked with the social worker at DNCS to determine her options. Through the No Child Goes Homeless initiative, DNCS was able to refer Cristel to Project Hope for housing support. Project Hope’s Housing Case Manager connected with Cristel and met with her at the hotel in Methuen to gather some more information and work out a plan. The first issue they tackled was how to get Cristel’s family transferred to a shelter closer to her home community, so her daughter could continue attending the DNCS.
A room at Project Hope’s shelter was becoming available soon. The Housing staff worked closely with DHCD and Cristel to get her transferred to our shelter. Project Hope also stayed in close contact with the DNCS, in order to make sure her daughter’s spot would remain open. Cristel only had to spend two weeks in Methuen before the family was able to move into the Project Hope shelter in Dorchester. She was now just down the street from the DNCS and able to attend school every day!
At Project Hope, she started working with a full team of support to determine the needs of her entire family. Project Hope helped enroll her 4-year-old into the Project Hope Children’s Center and her 8-month-old into the home of a Project Hope Family Childcare Provider. She also works with a housing advocate to help her find stable housing.
With a safe place to live and her children enrolled in great programs, Cristel could focus on her plans for the future. Cristel was referred to Project Hope’s Workforce Development & EmployerPartnerships programs, which provides job training for careers in the healthcare field. She had always wanted to work in healthcare because she wanted to help others.
Cristel was very nervous to enroll in the program specifically because of the strict attendance policy, which mirrors the working world. She skipped a lot of days of classes when in High School, and she was worried she wouldn’t be able to change her behavior. However, determined and motivated to succeed, she did change. Today Cristel has perfect attendance and has never even been late to a class. She feels more confident than ever in her life, she has improved her communication skills and she is becoming an advocate for herself.
Her children are thriving in their new environments as well. Her 4-year-old son is able to communicate better and his behavior has improved. Her daughter’s favorite subject is math (just like her mom) and she even helps some of the older kids at the shelter with their math homework.
Cristel is finally looking forward to her future. She is planning on attending the next job-training program offered by Project Hope and can’t wait for her future career in the medical field.
When asked what she learned from her experience she answered, “At Project Hope you are not alone. Many people care for you and want to help you. I spent a childhood being bullied and not being able to defend myself, but now I have become an advocate for me and my children.”
To Cristel, “HOPE is the belief you have that something good will happen,” and right now Cristel’s life is overflowing with hope.