Christine speaks about her duties at the Bronx Zoo with infectious enthusiasm, saying “I love it. I work behind the register, on the floor, greeting people with a smile, and engaging them in conversation.” She enjoys seeing the zoo’s youngest visitors running with excitement and meeting people from all over the country and the world.
But more than offering a chance to work around many diverse people, Christine credits her job with showing her how to be more responsible and independent, more akin to how she felt before she struggled with addiction. She’s been sober for 6 years and explains that her position at the zoo has reinforced how much she enjoys her sober life. “[Being sober] brought me closer to my family than I was before … I have nieces and nephews and I am a very big part of their life,” she says.
Christine recently put in applications for a number of permanent, full-time careers, but the lessons she learned with the CUCS Career Network will stay with her even after she leaves the Bronx Zoo. “I learned how to trust again, I learned how to stay strong” she says of her time with Megan, her Career Network employment specialist. “Megan had patience with me, she accepts me, and she believed in me.”
Christine first came to CUCS in early 2015 after 18 years of homelessness. She met Megan during her year-long stay at the Kelly, one of CUCS’ transitional living communities. She has recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment but emphasizes her appreciation for how much Megan and CUCS has meant to her, stating, “Since I’ve been with her, I’ve had so much support.”
Megan’s steady encouragement has prompted Christine to say, for the first time in a long time, “I’m proud of myself.”
Gabby and her colleagues like Megan look forward to seeing participants experience such positive change. Gabby describes the mission of the Career Network as much more than simply getting a person a job. “It’s seeing participants realize their own potential and self worth…finding the strength to succeed.”