Our Stories

Meet Ana

Ana R. is a single mother of three girls ages 16, 12, and 7. She joined Level Up with the goal of reducing her credit card debt. While in an abusive relationship, she accumulated $8,000 in debt on 10 credit cards. She bravely left the relationship and moved to a domestic violence shelter.

Ana approached a local bank for a debt consolidation loan, but they were unable to approve her application. Fortunately, her banker had learned about the Level Up program during a United Way Campaign presentation. She told Ana about the program.

United Way met her where she was.

Debt was only one of Ana’s challenges. Although she had a steady job in a local hospital, she needed a plan to get out of debt and find permanent housing.

United Way is her accountability partner.

The Level Up Family Career Navigator, Talisa Rogers-Hall, encouraged Ana to listen to financial podcasts from Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Talisa suggested using the snowball technique to pay off high interest/low balance credit cards first. As Ana paid off each balance she applied that payment to the next credit card. Finally, in February 2020, Ana paid off her debt using her income tax refund. Ana began budgeting, which she had never learned before. 

Learn more about Ana's story here.


Mariah’s dream is to help struggling parents and change the community. Her plan is to launch a nonprofit organization that provides resources, support groups, and family supports. But she knew that in order to help her clients make progress in their lives, she had to make progress in her own.

Mariah is a single mother of two children, aged 7 and 8. When she joined Level Up last fall, she was stuck in a full-time job that she hated and that didn’t pay her enough. She lived paycheck to paycheck. Her children were having difficulty in school, both academically and behaviorally. Mariah committed to helping her children. She left her full-time job and picked up several part-time jobs that gave her the flexibility to instruct her children and finish her Master’s degree in Social Work.

United Way cares about the whole person.

This was a frenetic pace. She was financially strapped and under heavy academic and family pressure to succeed. In February, she was at the end of her rope, and our Family Career Navigator, Talisa Rogers-Hall connected her to mental health supports.

United Way believes in Level Up clients

Through talk therapy and self-care, Mariah regained her focus and her balance. She listened to Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman podcasts and took small steps toward financial freedom. She purchased life insurance. This May, she told her story of growth and change as Participant of the Month during the Level Up meeting.

Learn more about Mariah's story here.


When Diana joined Level Up in September 2019, her family depended on her income. She worked part time as an administrative assistant coordinator. Her husband, Jimmy, was out-of-work as a truck driver due to an incident on the job several years ago. They lived with her daughter and granddaughter in Crown Point.

United Way helps families make plans.

Diana and Jimmy always did the jobs that they had to do. They hadn’t ever been asked to think about the work that they wanted to do, but the family needed income quickly. Our Level Up Family Career Navigator, Talisa Rogers-Hall, coached Diana and her husband to put their skills and talents to work immediately while at the same time encouraging them to dream about jobs that they would enjoy, not endure. So, Diana asked her employer to become full time, and her husband used his CDL license to enrolled in a trucker training program.

United Way inspires people to dream about meaningful work.

While her husband was training on the road, Diana and her daughter began to imagine their dream jobs in nursing and midwifery. They started the enrollment process for a fall nursing program at a local community college. When her husband returned, he imagined using his CDL license at a local warehouse so that he wouldn’t need to be away from his family for long periods of time.

Learn more about Diana's story here.


Jessie B. is a single mother of three children—12-year-old twin girls and a five-year-old boy. When she joined Level Up last December, she was employed full-time as a contractor for a government agency. But she had dreams of becoming a medical coder.

United Way simplifies complex systems.

Our Level Up Family Career Navigator, Talisa Rogers-Hall, researched medical coding programs and learned that WorkOne received funding to pay for medical coding certification. Navigating through WorkOne is challenging, and becoming connected to a Career Advisor isn’t an easy process. With the advice of a WorkOne employee serving on the United Way ALICE Jobs Work Group, Talisa created a specific pathway for clients to become connected to WorkOne services.

United Way encourages self-advocacy.

Once Jessie expressed her interest in taking the medical coding certification course to her WorkOne Career Advisor, she was hesitant to follow-up too frequently. She didn’t want to “bother” the Career Advisor. Based on advice from WorkOne employees, the Family Career Navigator encouraged Jessie to call 2-3 times per week letting the Career Advisor know how taking this course will positively impact her family. Jessie’s application was accepted!

Learn more about Jessie's story here.