Quality time is very intentional for Ana, her 13 year-old daughter, and her 5 year-old son. Living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they enjoy spending moments shopping and going to the botanical garden. Ana believes in her hometown and plans to one day rent-to-own a home of her own.
“I grew up here and I don’t see myself anywhere else,” Ana said. “I feel like there’s a lot of help here, for your children and for yourself. There’s a lot of kind people too. I would say it’s a great state to live in, the houses are affordable. There's a good opportunity here for bigger things.”
Ana has already accomplished big things. In recent years, she got a job as a Teacher Assistant and then graduated from Tulsa Community College with her Child Development Associate credential, allowing her to teach in preschool and early childhood centers.
“It was very challenging and I did everything myself,” said Ana.
She first connected with UpTogether after a family advocate at her son’s early childhood school, Educare, informed her about the Tulsa UpTogether Fund where selected families in the area would receive monthly direct cash investments with no strings attached.
“She told me I wouldn’t have to pay it back and I immediately started crying. I think about it and it still makes me want to cry. Little things like that impact someone’s life a lot,” Ana said.
Though she became emotional learning about the opportunity—and again after being selected—Ana still wasn’t convinced UpTogether was real until she saw the money in her account.
“I was like, ok I can spend it on whatever I need? It was like freedom. I was getting help but also not being told what to do with it,” she said.
With the money Ana received through the Tulsa UpTogether Fund, she purchased a car and was able to stick to her plan to pay it off in one year.
“The money that I would get monthly was going towards the payment for my car. It was an extremely big help. I still have my car and don’t plan on getting another one,” she said. “Since I was working at the time, I was able to pay the bills with my check and help my family members out when I could.”
The Tulsa UpTogether Fund was perfect timing for Ana. She had been a Certified Nursing Assistant for five years, but had recently resigned due to burnout and the stress and strain of COVID-19. Being one of the few bilingual CNAs on the staff, Ana didn’t feel as if she was getting paid what she deserved and ultimately made the decision to prioritize her health and the health of her children.
Later, the same family advocate at Educare remembered that Ana had been searching for a new job. She felt Ana’s bilingual skillset would be a great support in the classroom and encouraged her to apply for an open position at the school. Ultimately, Ana was hired as a Teacher Assistant in the infant and toddler room.
“I was a big help in the classroom with more than half of the children in my care speaking Spanish. So I felt like I was actually helping and I liked that,” Ana said.