Heather’s Story

Heather Found Support, Education, and Opportunity in Goodwill’s YouthBuild Program

By Heather Phillips, Marketing Assistant, Goodwill Omaha

When I turned 18, I dropped out of high school to take care of my father as his primary caregiver. I am also the caregiver to my younger brother, who has autism and Asperger’s syndrome. I had terrible anxiety about school and teachers from my past experiences in high school, where a teacher told me I was a misfit and “not diploma material.” That drove me into a dark depression and affected my attitude negatively. If my teacher doesn’t think I am good enough for school, I thought to myself, why should I care about graduating? So, I started skipping school and making bad decisions.

In Goodwill Omaha’s YouthBuild AmeriCorps program, Heather has discovered she has multiple career path options. Here, she’s working in the YouthBuild workshop.

I was losing hope; my father came across information about the Youthbuild program free of charge. I started to take GED classes for YouthBuild in February 2020. YouthBuild provides me with the necessary tools to pass my GED classes. Since I have joined YouthBuild, I have gotten my NCS First Aid CPR & AED certification, OSHA 10 certification, and Home Builders Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT). Now I am only one test away from graduating with my GED diploma.

The YouthBuild staff gave me countless life-changing opportunities: Mr. Norman Barnes, YouthBuild program mentor, and Mr. Michael Anderson, YouthBuild program manager, helped me move forward more than I can ever adequately explain. Not only did they help me discover how to use tools that I use on worksites, they also supported me in my studies.

Before I entered YouthBuild, I was lost; I went from job to job, and I felt like I was getting nowhere. The program made me feel like I was getting somewhere for the first time. I had confidence in myself! I could do this! I hadn’t felt that way in so long. It helped me feel better about myself; it helped me feel like I had a purpose. I am so grateful to them for their help.

I could not believe it when they offered me MORE help! The YouthBuild case manager called around searching for doctors to help me find a mental health practitioner who would accept me on a sliding fee scale. Recently, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. Now, everything is under control, and I am more at ease. The case manager also assisted me in applying for medical insurance, which I did not have for a long time, and now I have insurance. Did you think that was all the help I got? No.

Goodwill’s YouthBuild job manager, Miss Carnetta Hardin, suggested CNA classes because of my job at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as a caregiver already. She saw the opportunity to help me get further, so I jumped into it! I applied and was accepted into the CNA program. I became overwhelmed by taking care of my dad while focusing on getting my diploma, so I had to quit the CNA program. I would love to enroll back into the CNA program after receiving my GED certificate, since I already have experience in the field as a caregiver. Then, knowing my interests and taking them to heart, Miss Carnetta suggested an internship for marketing.

As an intern in Goodwill Omaha’s marketing department, Heather has the chance to learn various aspects of marketing, which she wants to pursue as her career.

Working as a marketing intern at Goodwill Industries has been a rather intriguing opportunity. That first day, I uncovered new things about the programs the marketing team uses and where things are, and how they do them. Learning about the new stuff and programs here is extremely exciting for me. These programs are relatively straightforward to use.

I’ve found that being involved with marketing and multimedia is part of my dream job. With Amy Goldyn, director of marketing & PR, and Jessica Bertsch, visual & graphics design specialist, my marketing skills are increasing more each day. I never realized how much I enjoy creating graphics, figuring out social media posts, and writing blog entries. It never occurred to me how enjoyable such a career could be, but now I hope to continue this work for an extended period.

With great intentions, Goodwill welcomes anyone and everyone into their family. I would highly recommend anyone to join in the good that Goodwill has been doing with their programs.

Update (February 15, 2022)
After the publication of this article, Heather went on to complete the YouthBuild program, pass the GED, and obtain a Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate. Heather is now a full time marketing assistant at Goodwill Omaha, specializing in social media.