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“I decided to take charge of my life… I chose to make my own decisions and turn my life into how I wanted it.”

Mila* looked around and wondered how she ended up here. As a new arrival on United States soil, Mila felt her accolades and triumphs from her home country quickly receding. Nothing from her past could help her now.  

She was no stranger to hard work. From the age of five, Mila attended school and contributed to her family’s income along with her sister. As she grew older, Mila felt the same pressure most young adults feel to attend college and select a major to study. She knew her mother, who was an orphan and later a single parent, could not afford to help her pay for higher education.  

Set on becoming a college-educated woman, Mila put herself through school in her home country and attained a degree in Economics. The world opened up to Mila as she received numerous prestigious job offers. But right when her future seemed secure, Mila’s life was suddenly uprooted, and she immigrated to the U.S.  

“I was like a baby,” Mila remembered. “I had to start my life like a baby.” 

Her college degree and all those job offers evaporated before her eyes. Life in the U.S. meant starting over, no one cared what she had once accomplished. Mila had to learn a lot of new things on her own to function. The internet was not widely used at the time, and everything was different than what she was accustomed to.  

“I didn’t speak the language, I had no cultural knowledge or experience, and no driving experience either,” Mila explained. 

Despite all these difficulties, Mila did not give up and she did not waste her time. While raising two beautiful babies, she went back to school and took a job as a math tutor at the college she was attending. 

“Everything was a challenge,” Mila said. “My life was not glamorous and took several rapid turns with more hardship than I could ever have imagined.” 

Imagine standing in a dark tunnel with no light at the end or the feeling of teetering on the edge of a cliff that led to the abyss. Mila felt this way every single day. Facing reality was difficult and there were no friends or family to help her, so she decided to move to Phoenix to start a new chapter in her life. 

Mila knew that to find happiness she would need to find a way to work for herself – she wanted to become an entrepreneur.  

“While I was looking for ways to start my own business, I got a full-time job to pay the bills, and I took months of tax preparation training and real estate courses to get licensed,” Mila said. 

Mila worked two jobs amounting to 17-hour days and ran on two or three hours of sleep a night while running a household at the same time. Knowing she could not sustain that lifestyle for long, she began attending seminars and workshops while making phone calls and researching available services. 

“That’s how I came across the Fresh Start organization (in March 2021),” Mila recollects, smiling. 

Fresh Start provided Mila a scholarship to complete a Small Business Start-Up (SBSU) Certification program at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC). That program was the first step to bringing her closer to fulfilling her dreams and goals. 

“I decided to take charge of my life,” Mila says. “I chose to make my own decisions and turn my life into how I wanted it.” 

Fresh Start helped Mila acquire small business certificates and work with other women who had the same dedication and passion as she did. Finally, Mila knew someone genuinely cared about her and wanted to see her succeed. 

“I feel like Fresh Start is a family to me, they treat me like family,” she says. “I know they are here for me, and I can rely on them. I will never be alone as long as I am with them.” 

Along her journey to self-sufficiency, she enrolled in various Fresh Start offerings available as part of the Impact Program including the Dream Builder course to prepare for the PVCC, Small Business Start-Up (SBSU) program, the Semiconductor Technician training, the Personal Empowerment Series, Mentoring, Computer Literacy workshops, and numerous financial workshops.  

Mila’s expressions of gratitude illustrate the power of treating others with sincere kindness and compassion. The knowledge that Fresh Start staff cared about her had a significant impact on her sense of self-worth, empowering Mila to gather the courage to make the changes needed to turn her life around.