Growing up in poverty without support at home is an ordeal that Francy Gonzalez never wants her three children to experience like she did.
"Poverty is not where it’s at," Francy, age 27, said bluntly. Her early years were hard ones. Diagnosed with an eating disorder at age 10, she was treated for years at Golisano Children’s Hospital, the only place where she found supportive adults. Still today, one of Francy's ongoing challenges is to continue to take care of her health.
As a high school student, Francy tried to avoid the chaos at home by “smoking and chilling” with her friends. She dropped out because “I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of school that would help me survive” in the world.
Francy has received government assistance over the years and worked seasonal jobs. A big turning point came in 2017, when she attended an event at Head Start where her daughter was enrolled. She met Bridges to Success mentor Hillary Bartoszek, who was recruiting participants. When Francy learned what the program entailed, “I said, ‘Sign me up!’” she recalled.
Francy credits Hillary with helping her to set goals, including passing the GED and enrolling in a Healthy Moms program after she became pregnant with her third child.
She thinks of Hillary as “a friend who is aware of everything.” By everything, Francy means all kinds of resources in the community, even where Francy could get clothing for her children.
When Francy needed to move to a new apartment, Hillary guided her to a program that paid the security deposit and first month’s rent. The mentors “have the time to sit down and help you work toward whatever goals you want,” Francy said.
Francy’s goals included taking steps to learn how to launch her own business of healthy hair care products. She plans to apply for the cosmetology program at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center.
Hillary has high praise for Francy. “Francy is a person who will do absolutely anything she can to better herself, better her situation, and to provide for her family.”
Francy’s children, ages 6, 5 and 2 years, remain her top motivator to get out of poverty. “I definitely don’t want my kids going through whatever struggles I went through.” She is continuing to receive support to improve her health through Healing Connections.
Francy so believes in the Bridges program that she urged her 19-year-old sister to apply. She’s now participating. “She likes to strive as much as I do,” Francy said proudly.
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