Success Stories

Sierra was unemployed and in subsidized housing, now she is a homeowner and has a stable career

A young woman and a young man hug and look t the camera in front of a green field
Sierra Taylor and her husband

Sierra Taylor went from living in low-income housing and working odd jobs, to owning her own home and having a stable career that helps people — all in just a few years, with some help from Goodwill’s Workforce Team and Job Connection model.

Back in 2017, Sierra and her husband and their two children moved into Bangor Housing, which provides affordable housing and assistance for low to moderate income families. Their previous apartment had become too dangerous to live in. Through Bangor Housing, Sierra and her husband were invited to join a program called Families Forward. Created in partnership with the John T. Gorman Foundation, the goal is to help families succeed by advancing two-generation support strategies. They respond to the needs of children and parents in the same family simultaneously. This model is proven to be a powerful tool in addressing the challenges of generational poverty.

When she was first invited to the program, Sierra was hesitant. She wasn’t experiencing generational poverty and her family was relatively stable.

“I didn’t want to take a spot away from someone who really needed it,” she said.

After consideration, Sierra decided to attend a parenting class. She and her husband found themselves in a cohort of parents they related to and connected with. Through the group, Sierra and her family participated in many community-based opportunities, including Goodwill’s workforce programs.

When she enrolled in Goodwill’s SNAP Employment and Training Program, Sierra’s husband was employed full-time and she worked odd jobs to cover their expenses. “I’d given up on having a career,” Sierra said. She only took work opportunities that allowed her to be home with the kids when her husband wasn’t there.

Through Goodwill’s Job Connection model, Sierra met a Career Advisor and a Life Navigator. Sierra started working with her career advisor to determine her career goals and how to achieve them. The mental health field interested her, but she wasn’t sure what that meant for a job.

“There was this overarching goal of ‘I need to be helping people’,” she said.

They worked through the World of Work Inventory assessment used by Goodwill, which looks at the way people like to work and what their talents are and then suggests what to look for in a job.

“It was a lot of discovery [with my career advisor] until we settled on a training that made sense for me.”

Sierra enrolled in ACRE Training, a five-day program to become an employment specialist. Goodwill paid for the training and supported her throughout it.

“They would send me text messages telling me I was a rock star and I could do this,” Sierra said. “That’s who they are.”

A woman smiles at the camera. She's wearing a pink shirt and her hair is up.
Sierra Taylor

After earning her certification, Sierra quickly took a job at a group home. She thought it was a perfect fit, in large part because the schedule was Friday through Sunday, allowing her to homeschool her kids and be with them during the week.

“I was technically a success story,” Sierra said. “We were financially stable, I was helping people and working within my career goals, and I enjoyed my work.”

She still met regularly with her career advisor, but every time he sent her a new job opportunity, she turned it down. She felt stable and comfortable where she was.

After being in Bangor Housing for three years, Sierra and her husband purchased a home. To prepare, they took courses and seminars offered by Bangor Housing to expand their financial literacy.

“The decisions we were making at the beginning [of our time at Bangor Housing] versus the end were worlds apart,” Sierra said. “We were living without help.”

At her group home job, Sierra broadened her skills, but like so many in the caregiving segment, she experienced COVID burnout. When she shared this with her Goodwill career advisor, he told her he intended to leave his job soon. Both he and her Life Navigator wanted to recommend Sierra for the soon-to-be-vacant job. She decided she was ready to take on a new challenge and began the application process.

“I wanted to be the person who had been there for me when I was discovering my path and doing my training. I wanted to be the cheerleader.”

Sierra got the job and is now the Career Advisor for Penobscot, Knox, and Waldo county. She advises about 20 people at a time. Sierra finds the work incredibly fulfilling.

“Seeing a participant meet a goal or make a milestone progress is what makes the job so gratifying,” she said.

She loves honoring participants’ interests and skills through discovery and the same World of Work Inventory assessment that worked so well for her own journey.

Asked what the best thing about participating in Goodwill’s workforce programs was, Sierra said, “Now I understand my own worth.”

Goodwill’s workforce programs in the Bangor area include the SNAP Employment & Training program with the State of Maine.

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