New Choices welcomes men to the program!

Up until recently, the New Choices Career Development Program worked exclusively with women in transition. Created to help displaced homemakers in the early 1980s, New Choices has since evolved to meet the changing needs of the community and now assists many who are in a variety of situations who seek positive change for their lives.

In order to expand our reach and to recognize that men will also benefit from this dynamic program, New Choices now accepts men. This free 10 day, 60 hour Education Empowerment Workshop is open to all over the age of 18. There are no income requirements, just a willingness to commit to the program by arriving on time, doing the work, and staying the entire class time.

For more information, please contact newchoiceslancaster@gmail.com or visit our website at http://www.newchoiceslancaster.org.

 

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Down on her luck, Cynthia finds that patience pays off

 

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Cynthia Alexis

Cynthia Alexis needed to find a job fast.

She had just received word that her employer was shutting its doors in Lancaster and relocating to Maryland. While the news was unsettling to all, who worked there, for Cynthia it was especially troubling.

“The bank was foreclosing on my house,” said Cynthia, a married mom of three boys. “I was so focused on losing my home that it was hard to think about much else. I needed to find work.”

With that singular goal in mind, Cynthia found the New Choices Career Development Program.

“The most important thing that I learned at New Choices was to remember my self-worth,” Cynthia said. “I was so focused on just finding a job that I wasn’t thinking about marketing myself for a career. Even though my life was a whirlwind, I learned the importance of keeping lines of communication open, networking, and interviewing practice.”

One of the many unexpected benefits of New Choices are the presentations from area social service non-profits and agencies in Lancaster County. With her finances in shambles, Cynthia was able to rebuild her life thanks to those organizations.

“It was a relief to know that there are resources out there to help people such as the Lancaster Housing Opportunities Program, food banks, clothing banks, budgeting … all those little things add up when you are down on your luck.”

The real breakthrough for Cynthia came during the vision board exercise. It was then that it became apparent that for her life to change, her expectations needed to change as well.

“It helped me to put in perspective short and long-term goals, and not everything can happen overnight,” Cynthia said. “I have all this experience in inventory management… I needed to market myself better based on that fact and find a career with the opportunity for growth within an organization.”

After graduating from New Choices, Cynthia continued to work with Executive Director Tricia Nabors to hone her interviewing and networking skills – both areas Cynthia admitted she needed lots of practice.

Cynthia kept up the hard work until she found a job posting on an online job site that seemed to be everything she was looking for in a career. After the interviewing procedure, she was hired to work in the inventory returns department at Clark Associates. True to her goals, the employer offers the potential for growth within the company!

The new job, and her efforts to pay off her debts, Cynthia was able to save her home.

“New Choices is the best-kept secret for people trying to reclaim their lives and to reestablish themselves back into the community,” Cynthia said. “Tricia’s mentoring helped me to realize that yes, I can.”

Cynthia returned to school this fall part-time in the evenings to pursue a business management degree from Harrisburg Area Community College. She hopes that earning an Associate’s Degree will increase her chances of a promotion at Clark Associates.

“I am so excited to be back in school,” Cynthia said. “It’s a way for me to demonstrate to my children to always finish what you started and to achieve your goals.”

A life long dream realized…

Molly Shaeffer’s heart sank as she looked down at her phone to see it was her husband

Molly Shaeffer
Molly Shaeffer finally found the self-confidence she needed to fulfill a dream she had since she was 11 years old when she enrolled into nursing school. Molly credits the New Choices Career Development Program for supporting her during a difficult time.

calling again for the third time that day. She said she knew if she picked up the call he would assault her with a torrent of verbal abuse – making her feel small and incapable of making it on her own without him.

This day, however, was a bit different than all of the other days in their 22-year marriage that she said she endured emotional abuse. It was in January 2010, and she had just begun her class at the New Choices Career Development Program. Despite his harassment, she persevered and began taking steps to realize a dream she had since she was 11 years old.

“I think back to those days, and I can still feel the anxiety and pain,” Molly said taking a deep breath. “I was in a dark place, but I don’t ever want to forget it because it reminds me of how strong I am and how far I have come.”

Molly had left her husband in 2009 and went to live in a shelter for battered spouses. It was a counselor at Domestic Violence Services that recommended she enroll into New Choices. Molly wasn’t sure what to expect from the class, but she committed to the program while working two jobs and living in her new apartment.

She remembered the first week of the program and how confused and overwhelmed she felt.

“Things around me were whirling out of control,” Molly said. “I was trying to figure out how I was going to afford my apartment and a divorce lawyer. And here I am in New Choices, and they’re telling me I could be independent and even go back to school. I was like, really?

“I guess deep down inside I believed I could do it because here I am,” Molly said.

By the second week of New Choices, Molly began to feel stronger. The support she received from the instructors kept her going and she recalls that for the first time in a long time she didn’t feel so alone anymore.  With her confidence soaring, Molly gathered the courage to sing a song for the class at their graduation.

Six months after graduating from New Choices, Molly honored her childhood dream of being a nurse by enrolling in HACC and then nursing school. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in June of this year.

“I have always wanted to be a nurse, but my husband squashed every dream I had,” Molly said. “To be able to do this for myself and to have a career I find so incredibly rewarding, it’s amazing.”

Molly works at Lancaster General Health in the Mental Health Unit – a job she sees as her true calling.

“I didn’t know I was going to love working in mental health – but I do love it!” Molly said.  “When I started clinical rotations I would cry and question whether I should be in nursing school. But when I began doing an externship for four weeks on the mental health unit it felt like a natural fit for me.

“Suddenly, I didn’t feel like crying or questioning my decision to be a nurse. It was like I was destined to be a mental health nurse.”

Molly said she is grateful for the ongoing support she receives from Tricia Nabors, Executive Director of New Choices.

“I know I can go to her with questions or to ask for help with my resume,” she said. “That is important to me, to know that she is always there.”

Nurse discovers her true calling and removes obstacles in her way

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Kay Richards, a recent graduate from Lancaster County Career & Technology LPN program, overcame abusive relationships to make new choices and complete her nursing degree. She starts full-time at Lancaster Rehab in October.

Kay Marie Richards accomplished something over the summer very few people in her situation would have the confidence and courage to do.

The single mom to three young children earned a degree in Practical Nursing from Lancaster County Career & Technology Center while working full-time, attending school full-time, raising children, and maintaining a home for her family.

Just a few years ago, the dream of earning a nursing degree and being independent almost seemed impossible. Kay fell into the repeated habit of falling in love with men who were abusive to her.  One such relationship ended when she could no longer take the abuse and abruptly left their home with no plan and nowhere else to live.

“Essentially, I was homeless,” Kay said. “I house hopped from friend’s house to friend’s house.”

It was an experience that haunted Kay, and she was determined to do right by her children. She found a job as a telemarketer and saved money for an apartment. Eventually, she got a job at a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities where she learned to take accurate medical notes, organized medicine, and escort clients to medical visits.

Kay’s passion for helping others inspired her to become a nurse. But at the same time, she had fallen for another man who mistreated her, and it almost destroyed her dreams and the stable life she had built for her kids since fleeing the last toxic relationship.

“I was supposed to go to school but went to Las Vegas with him instead,” Kay said. “I wanted to make it work because we had a child together. But I realized it wasn’t worth it to give up my dreams for someone who lied to and cheated on me. I left him for good and went back to school.”

At the critical time when Kay almost chose to stay in a dysfunctional relationship rather than going to nursing school, Tricia Nabors, the Executive Director of New Choices, was the guiding voice for Kay that empowered her to make the right choice.

“Tricia is so supportive and caring,” Kay said. “She is honest and real, and I appreciate that. She was so angry with me when I went to Las Vegas. She helped me to remember what I learned in New Choices — I am the only one who has the power to change my life and to make it what I want it to be.”

Kay’s journey to New Choices began as a means to earn tuition reimbursement and scholarships for school. What she came away with was so much more.

“I learned so much about myself and grew as a person,” Kay said. “By the end of the two weeks I was in tears – I didn’t want it to be over. I had gotten so close to everyone in the class.”

Kay will launch her nursing career at Lancaster Rehab when she starts full-time in October. And the hard-working mom will also continue to put in hours at the group home – a job she loves.

In hopes that her story will help others, Kay gives back to New Choices as a guest speaker. She will pursue an R.N. degree next year.

On the road to self-discovery, a breakthrough happens…

For 11 ½ years, Charmaine Hileman would jump into her car every work day to drive charmainetwo hours round trip from Quarryville to her place of employment in Wilmington, Del. with one of the oldest industrial chemical companies in the United States.

Charmaine didn’t mind the commute because it allowed her to raise her two children in a quiet small town while working for a giant in the biotech industry, a job she assumed was secure.

“I thought I was going to stay with the company for the rest of my career,” Charmaine said.

That was until the company merged with another industrial giant in 2015. The merger and subsequent restructuring lead to the elimination of the division where Charmaine and over 200 other employees worked.

The cold and detached manner in which she was laid off and the loss of a career she loved was devastating.

“It hit me hard; I didn’t know it was going to hit me that hard,” she said. “I was the primary wage earner for my family, and it was such a loss to lose my job. In the first few months, I had to force myself to go out of the house. My kids were at school, and my husband was at work, and I was at home by myself. My whole purpose for getting up in the morning was gone.”

Charmaine found herself in an unexpected place – missing a career she loved and at a loss for what was next. The one place outside of her home where she found solace and to be around others was the public library. It was there that she learned about New Choices.

During an intake session with Tricia Nabors, Executive Director of New Choices, Charmaine handed over a folder stuffed with papers from her termination – paperwork she couldn’t bring herself to read because it still caused her pain. After talking to Tricia, she enrolled in the program she expected to be about the “nuts and bolts” of resume writing and interviewing skills.

When her session began a month later, Charmaine quickly learned that for the next two weeks it was going to involve a lot more than just honing her job-seeking skills. She was about to dive deep into personal development and learn things about herself that could be holding her back from moving forward.

At first, this self-described introvert turned inward and kept quiet. And then, in week two, Charmaine experienced a moment she wasn’t expecting while learning about the four major personality types. She discovered that she possessed a passive aggressive personality trait, and it shook her to the core.

“That’s when it hit me because I always thought of myself as a passive person, and I came to learn that I was a passive aggressive person and I didn’t like that very much. I was distraught and went to the bathroom and cried. That was the turning point for me to realize, ‘OK, that’s what you are, but you don’t have to be that way anymore, and you can work towards being an assertive person.’”

One year later, Charmaine said she feels more confident in herself, thanks to the skills she developed through the New Choices program. She feels more attuned to her needs and can redirect herself when she begins to fall back on old thinking patterns. And the program also lead her to reexamine her career path and to reassess her priorities.

“I didn’t necessarily have to stay in the biotech industry, there are other things I want to do,” she said. “And I realized I want to stay close to home to be there for my family. I have a new outlook now.”

Charmaine recently earned a certificate in phlebotomy and has a longer range goal to be an echocardiogram technician (ultrasound of the heart).

We have foot traffic, but we need help!

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One of the main reasons we moved from the Manheim Pike location to the new location at Liberty Place was to make our office accessible to everyone. Because the old location was off a busy road in a commercial district, many people were hesitant to drive or take the bus there. And walking along traffic-congested Manheim Pike would have been too dangerous. When the inquiries into our program dropped dramatically, we knew it was time to move (again!).

Our new home at Liberty Place, adjacent to Career Link, is terrific! We knew we hit a home run when, from day one, the foot traffic from graduates and prospective students increased tremendously as did the referrals from Career Link. That’s good news, but on some days the numbers of people dropping by without appointments can be overwhelming and challenging for Tricia to serve everyone at a high level.

So we have a favor to ask.

When you can, please make an appointment with Tricia before you come in. She will continue to have an open door policy, but it is important to remember she is often the only one in the office on most days. You can call her at 717-869-6363 or email her at newchoiceslancaster@gmail.com.

We really appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through the growing pains, but we promise to always serve our grads and students to the best of our ability!

 

Grad gives back in the coolest of ways!

CynthiaWe are always blown away by the incredible ways some of our graduates pay it forward. We are going to share a story of a very cool donation one of our grads helped us score that will serve our staff and students for years to come.

When we moved into our new office space at Liberty Place in early July, we were excited to learn we would have a room that would serve as a break area for our students. A quiet place where they could sit and relax after a rigorous morning of class and eat their lunch. Tricia quickly chose a sunny yellow color and asked her friends to help set up the room with a counter, stools, and a shelving system for plates and utensils. One thing that was missing though was a fridge for everyone to store their lunch and drinks.

That’s when 2014 New Choices grad Cynthia came to the rescue. Cynthia, who liquidates returns at Clark Associates, a commercial restaurant supply company, came across an industrial refrigerator that had been returned for minor blemishes to its exterior but worked perfectly fine.

“I always like to look for ways to give back to Tricia and New Choices,” Cynthia said. “I understand the struggle many women go through because I was a displaced worker and needed to find gainful employment and New Choices helped me to do that.”

Cynthia said her journey to New Choices was kind of accidental, as she was directed to the program when she went to Career Link when her prior employer was planning to close its doors.

“I was looking for a scholarship to go back to school, and they told me about New Choices. It opened doors for me and helped me to prepare a resume, hone my interviewing skills, and market myself to potential employers effectively.”

So, when Cynthia learned that New Choices needed a fridge, she started to research a program through the Clark Associates Foundation that helps non-profits receive equipment donations. She discovered that New Choices indeed qualified for the program. We moved the fridge in a few weeks ago, and now our current class gets to enjoy a lovely place to eat their lunch.

Thank you, Cynthia, for showing us incredible kindness and friendship. We are most grateful!!

It’s been hectic, but we’re open for business!

 

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It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but ever since we moved into our new office space at Liberty Place in Lancaster City in early July, we’ve been unpacking, painting, and gussying up the place for our next New Choices Career Development class that starts on Monday, Aug. 14.

And when I say we, I mean our Executive Director, Tricia Nabors, and her amazing band of friends, NC graduates, and NC Advisory Board members who came back to help with the move. Tricia will be writing a post soon to give props to the people who made the move into our new offices possible. We are incredibly grateful for their friendship, dedication, and time (like the day Tricia and two of her friends drove to Ikea in Philly and then came back to the office and assembled cabinets and furniture until 3 a.m!).

We are excited about the new location — it’s super handy for our students who live in the city as it is accessible by foot from most areas of town or by public transportation. It also provides lots of free parking with no time limit. While our last office on Manheim Pike was nice, this new location provides extra privacy for our students and is conveniently located above Career Link. The location will also attract more foot traffic from prospective students interested in our program.

So you see, it’s been a busy six weeks. But we are ready for our new class and all of the awesome things New Choices provides to women and men in the community!

 

 

 

 

 

Building on the New and Ready for a New Class on Monday, Aug. 14

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We’ll be celebrating a lot of firsts on Monday, Aug. 14. It will be our first New Choices Career Development Class for the Fiscal Year in our new office space at Career Link at Liberty Place, 1016 N. Charlotte St., Lancaster, in Suite 101.

New Digs!
The new location in Lancaster City is in the old Armstrong Headquarters and just blocks away from F&M College and the Barnstormer Stadium. It is accessible to public transportation, walking from most points in the city, and provides lots of free parking!

New Class!
Although we’ve been working overtime trying to get the new site in top shape (more on that later in a future post) for our new class, we couldn’t be more excited for this next class of students of women and one male to achieve their dreams! From the pre-class interviews, it is apparent this new class is eager to use the tools they’ll learn over the next two weeks to achieve their goals and live a life of independence and self-sufficiency.

New Schedule
If you or someone you know is interested in attending an upcoming New Choices Career Development Class, here is the schedule for the 2017-18 year:

August 14, 2017 – August 25, 2017 (filled)
October 2, 2017 – October 13, 2017
January 8, 2018 – January 19, 2018
March 12, 2018 – March 23, 2018
May 7, 2018 – May 18, 2018

To sign up, please contact Tricia Nabors at 717-869-6363.

Next post: Our Grads Give Back!