I was blessed to start my life surrounded by both parents and awesome grandparents. I had what most would describe as a normal childhood. I grew up in a nice house, had professional parents, material things, and everything else a kid likes. Because my grandparents were from a time in our society that wasn’t very kind to African Americans, they along with my parents were strict when it came to education and being proud and eliminating stereotypes. They were titled as the first blacks to accomplish a list of things – my grandmother was the first black woman to become the chief interior designer for a high end home furnishing chain in St. Paul Minnesota and my grandfather was the first black man to manage the Twin City Arsenal which made military weapons and equipment. He also created a magazine in the 50’s and 60’s called the Minneapolis/Chicago Beacon that recognized other professional African Americans and their contributions to American society.
I started kindergarten at catholic school at the age of four and I still remember Sister Mary Ellen taking me by the hand on my first day and walking me into the class. I was educated by private schools up until middle school which laid a solid foundation of education and learning for me. I went on to graduate high school at 17 and it was around that time that I started to make destructive choices.
I began to hang out with people who lived a life totally different from mine and for me that was exciting. I was attracted to the “bad boy” type and started dating a gang member. I found myself in situations that were dangerous and would often leave the state without telling my family – leave with people I hadn’t known for any length of time and put myself in harm’s way.
From that point on I started to go down a path that led to me dropping out of college, frequent unemployment, and ultimately a few run-in’s with law enforcement. My last arrest took place in 2009 and it resulted in a felony charge. Because of that felony, it made it virtually impossible to obtain employment. There were days that I would spend just drinking or smoking marijuana because there wasn’t much else to do. I had a feeling of hopelessness and started to believe that I would be defined by my mistakes. It felt like no matter how many steps I took forward, it was never enough. One can only fill out so many job applications and get so many rejections before you start to give up. After a few years of job jumping, I came to the realization that something needed to change. The life I was living wasn’t working and I needed to stop making excuses for myself.
I came to the conclusion that my life could be better and it was up to me to make it better. That is when I applied to Women’s Bean Project and thankfully they hired me and took a chance on me. The program gave me the tools to discipline myself and finally learn to follow through. Women’s Bean Project encourages each program participant to maintain a healthy and balanced life outside of work, but they also hold you accountable for your decisions and choices you make and I am thankful for that.
Since graduating the program, I was able to find an awesome job with a great company. As of the first of the year (2016), I received my third raise at the same company I have been employed with since graduating Women’s Bean Project a year and a half ago. I would have never imagined I could be in my current position at this time of my life with stability and financial security. I have a 401K retirement savings account and continue to thrive and grow. Having this job has allowed me to be self-sufficient, obtain a car, housing, and most of all – to be proud of myself.
I know that part of my success today is from being employed at Women’s Bean Project and the other half is from being determined to make my mother proud. I hope that any woman who goes through the program takes the tools and resources provided and actually put them to use. I’m going to continue to make positive things happen!
~Aminah, 2014-15 Program Graduate