Against All Odds

Against All Odds

NEW’s Youth Enrichment Program Participant, Leslie Campos, is headed to college and will attend Bowie State University to pursue a pre-med degree.  She graduated from Duke Ellington School for the Arts this spring.

“I am ready to go to college!” Leslie said. “I love science and I want to help people.” Leslie will be the first in her family to attend college. This summer she has attended a six-week summer program at Bowie to help prepare her for college. Before she left, Leslie received an outpouring of support from our NEW donors who purchased items for Leslie off her Amazon college wish list. From a computer to shower slippers, the items helped Leslie get on her way!

Until Leslie, her three siblings and mom made it to NEW, life was not stable. They were in and out of shelters and schools. When they got to NEW, Leslie started attending the Saturday YEP enrichment activities to places she otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to like the movies or out to eat. This year she was especially thankful to the NEW staff who helped her figure out how to apply to college. One staff member even took her to visit Bowie State for a day.

“I am very proud of Leslie’s success and perseverance,” said NEW Executive Director Wanda Steptoe. “When I started YEP, I knew there were kids out there like Leslie who just needed the support to succeed in school. I look forward to following her success as she embarks on this new chapter.”

Another YEP student, Javonne’ Coleman graduated from The Maya Angelou Public Charter School in May. Javonne had to overcome myriad difficulties to succeed. He has been accepted to Virginia State University.

NEW is proud of our high school graduates!

Moving Into Success: Lisa Harrell

Moving Into Success: Lisa Harrell

The oldest of four kids, Lisa Harrell grew up in a dysfunctional household with alcoholic parents and an abusive father. “Growing up for me was hell. I didn’t have a childhood,” she said. She started drinking at a very young age and even though she was on the honor roll, she dropped out of high school before her senior year.

“My decision-making skills were altered due to the unresolved issues of abandonment by my mother and resentment of my father,” Lisa said.

She lived with her godmother and would drink on the weekends but could hold down a job. Crack scared her. She had seen too many friends and family members succumb to its charms. But then one night, when she was 27 she decided to give it a try. “Here is a 27-year-old confused women dealing with all these unresolved issues. I am a survivor of rape, incest and molestation, so many things and so many components of this,” Lisa said. “But I had no knowledge of the disease and what it can do. Before I knew it, I stopped going to work.”

From then until recently, she said, “It was like playing Russian roulette every day for me.” Lisa lost her home, her job, everything. Her life was only about how she could get her next fix. “I went from pillar to post a lot, staying with friends or family, sleeping in abandoned cars, abandoned houses, on the street or shelters, going in and out of different drug programs,” she said. She started prostituting.

“Addiction is really ugly. It starts out as fun, but after a while it becomes not fun anymore. It becomes a way of life,” she said.

Lisa would wake up some days with the best of intentions and think: “I’m not going to get high today. I am not going to drink today. I’m going to seek help and get in a program. But as soon as that person comes with that bottle or that hit, all of that would go out the window. When the disease calls you, you gotta go,” Lisa said.

Then one day, she got on her knees and she prayed to God and asked for help. “I didn’t want to die this way,” she said. “I didn’t want my obit to read: Lisa Harrell, crackhead.”

She entered a rehab program and two months later came to New Endeavors Transitional Housing program.

“My family wasn’t really supportive of me, so NEW became my family,” Lisa said. She was grateful for her bed, the meals, the staff, and her case manager Alana Roberts. “I learned structure. I learned discipline. I learned to slowly grow up,” Lisa said.

It hasn’t been without challenges. Lisa relapsed a couple times while at NEW, “but NEW didn’t give up on me,” she said. “You can’t just open up a place and shelter women. You have to have a heart for the women. You have to have a heart for the work. And the staff at NEW does.”

Lisa will be sober one year in August. This spring, she moved out of NEW and into permanent-supportive housing in Southeast.

“You can’t stereotype and put everybody in the pot,” Lisa said. “There are some people who really want to get their lives together like me and there are others coming behind me and we need places like NEW to be open to give somebody another chance.”

Every day is still a struggle to stay clean, but Lisa is doing everything she can to fight her addiction: she goes to meetings, she sees a therapist, she calls her sponsor every day. And she visits NEW to give the clients there hope and encouragement. She is hoping to go back to school, maybe open up her own business, maybe a food truck. But first, she must stay sober.

“I am grateful for NEW because that was the start of my journey and the beginning of my healing,” she said. “I tell the women that are still there that if God did it for me, he would do it for them too.”

ReNEWal Summer 2019

ReNEWal Summer 2019

Our Spring Newsletter, ReNEWal, has been mailed. In this issue, we highlight volunteers as well as welcome new board members and celebrate the fifth anniversary of New Journeys. We are so thankful for our many NEW family members who help make every NEW success possible!

Please take a moment to browse our latest issue of ReNEWal. Read more

A NEW Look: Case Manager Denise Ziegler

A NEW Look: Case Manager Denise Ziegler

Case Manager Denise Ziegler considers herself Superwoman. She doesn’t wear a red cape or fly an invisible jet, but her days are devoted to helping others and saving the day.

Denise works as a case manager for New Horizons, helping mothers find stability and confidence, and helping their kids stay motivated and inspired. Denise is also earning her BA in criminal justice. As if that’s not enough, Denise takes care of her elderly mother and most weekends, all four of her grandsons, ages 12,11, 5 and 1 stay with her.

Serving others, she said, is just who she is. Read more

Did You Know: Case Manger Antoinette Norris

Did You Know: Case Manger Antoinette Norris

Did you know that Case Manager Antoinette Norris always seems to have a smile on her face? A DC native and the youngest of seven children, growing up, Antoinette was always fascinated with human behavior. “I wanted to know why people do what they do and why they think what they think,” she said.  Antoinette’s brother went through some life challenges and she remembers asking her parents, “Why can’t he just get it together?” It was this desire to know and understand that lead her to social work. “I wanted to find out how I could help people change their behavior,” she said.

Antoinette earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and then a Master’s in counseling, both from Trinity University. When she graduated she was determined that she did NOT want to work with adults. She took an internship with Rachael’s House in any case, because she needed it to graduate. In true optimistic Antoinette form, she ended up connecting to her clients. “I was already very women-centric in my thinking, but I didn’t know it at the time,” she said “These were women. I’m a woman. That right there is a very powerful connection,” she said.

After more than a decade in the field, does Antoinette now understand human behavior? “I don’t know,” she said, “but what I do know is for the most part, people just want to be heard. The women I work with feel voiceless and powerless, and a listening ear can be medicine for the soul.”

Did You Know: Case Manger Mozell Brown

Did You Know: Case Manger Mozell Brown

Did you know that this week, case manager Mozell Brown celebrates 27 years of sobriety? One of 12 kids in her family, D.C-native, Mozell lost her mom to cancer when she was 10-years-old. “I didn’t know how to cope,” she said, so around the age of 13, she started using drugs. “I stopped believing in God and I became this very angry little girl,” she said. She eventually dropped out of school and became homeless. Read more

Moving Into Success: Donna Burke

Moving Into Success: Donna Burke

Donna Burke first tried marijuana when she was 12 years old. It was peer pressure, she said. Later, she was first introduced to what she called “the drug of my choice, which was crack cocaine.” Then her great-grandfather died and she found out that the man she thought was her father was not her father. That sent her into a tailspin that solidified her drug habit. “I escaped into the world of drugs,” she said. She was in and out of jail, treatment facilities, and her family’s lives. She was diagnosed with HIV in jail, she had a daughter, and all the while, she prayed to God that she could get clean before her mother and grandmother died.

Then, one day, at the age of 48, she got tired. She went into a recovery program and she got sober. Both her mother and grandmother were alive to see it. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” she said. “I know that there’s a God because he heard my prayers.” Read more