This blog was written by Corissa Britten, a Dress for Success Cincinnati client.
I grew up in some of the roughest parts of Cincinnati: Avondale, The Laurel Holmes Projects, and Over the Rhine, before it underwent rebranding with businesses, restaurants, and an entertainment district. Everywhere I lived was infested with drugs and violence on a day-to-day basis. After my parents split, my mom became addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, which eventually took her life in a drug overdose some years later, right in front of me and my children. Growing up in a single-parent home, I sought "more love" to fill the gaps of what I wasn't getting at home, leading to me becoming a teen mom at the age of 17. Disappointed, my mom kicked me out of the home, and I became homeless for a short period before staying briefly with a friend.
After giving birth to my son, I needed financial support and applied for public assistance, receiving $279 per month in cash, along with food stamps, childcare assistance, and W.I.C. benefits. To continue receiving these benefits, I had to participate in a program called "Ready for Work" as my son turned 1 year old. The program required me to spend 6 hours a day getting basic computer skills training, building a resume, and searching for a job. I secured a job interview with Christ Hospital, for the role of a Patient Care Assistant, but I lacked the proper clothing for the interview.
In preparation for my job interview, my caseworker at the time referred me to Dress for Success. Through the career services program, I met a woman named Rosalyn, who served as a Career Coach and Mentor, and who changed my life. The first day I met Rosalyn was on my birthday. She asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question confused me because no one had ever asked me this before, and I had never given it much thought. She shared a story about how she asked her 8-year-old son the same question every year, and each year his dreams grew bigger. Rosalyn inspired me to never stop dreaming, asking myself difficult questions, and believing in myself.
Years later, every year on my birthday, I take the day off to reflect and ask myself, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Today, after over 20 years in Tech, I'm the first to graduate college in my mom's family, the first to own a successful consulting business, and was recently promoted to Director, Business Relationship Manager. I also have four children, all of whom I ask the same question each year. They're all doing well, one in Law Enforcement/Corrections, one a recent college graduate studying to be a Naturopathic Doctor, one a Personal Basketball Trainer, and one a College Student, majoring in Social Work
Through the clothing and career services provided by Dress for Success, I received clothing and bus tokens for work. More importantly, I was empowered to see freedom within myself and to create a renewed sense of purpose, a fight to survive, and surpass the conditions of poverty and the potential for premature death that surrounded me. I also learned valuable skills such as resume building, communication, business etiquette, professionalism, and self-confidence, all of which I still use today.
I currently work at Great American Insurance as a Business Relationship Management Director. In addition, I’m currently the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Lead in our IT Division.
For any women in a similar situation to what I once was, I'd like to offer this advice: Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Needing someone or something is a natural part of life during tough times. It's okay not to be okay, and it's self-limiting to let great opportunities for support pass you by. Ask for the help that you need—I did!