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"The most important thing about this program is that I got love. These people loved me until I learned to love myself again. Today, I walk with my head held higher."

— Norma, Back on My Feet Boston Alum

Homelessness to Harvard: Norma’s Inspirational Transformational Journey

Norma was born in Honduras and immigrated to Boston in 1970. She moved first to a predominantly black neighborhood and then to a primarily white one, feeling like an outsider in both, teased for her different hair and clothing. Norma refers to this time as when her “self-hatred” started.

In an effort to cope with being bullied and being an outsider, Norma turned to drugs starting at the tender age of 12. Crack, cocaine, pot, and alcohol were her escapes, and with them came lying, stealing, and eventually prostitution to maintain the lifestyle.

Norma knew that she couldn’t stay on the path she was on. She found herself homeless and ready for a change in her life. A new direction started for Norma at Team Rosie’s Place in Boston, which is where she found Back on My Feet. The team became Norma’s family. She calls them her sisters. They offered her a support system that Norma had never had.

Norma felt especially excited by Back on My Feet’s Next Steps program. She learned from the resources provided, attended courses in financial aid, financial literacy, life skills, nutrition, and goal setting. Back on My Feet provided Norma access to social programs that helped empower her. Norma feels that Back on My Feet gave her stronger self-esteem, pride in her accomplishments, and a sense of self-worth.

Back on My Feet, Norma says, helped her turn her life around by teaching her to set goals, make plans to reach those goals, and appreciate the steps along the way. Norma explains proudly, “Those goals and successes start to grow and next thing you know, you are graduating from Harvard!”

Indeed, Norma graduated from Harvard with a degree in psychology, and she was hired as a Network Leader for Union Capital Boston, an organization that transforms social capital into opportunity. Norma also works as the Executive Assistant at Open Doors to the Arts (ODA). ODA is a program run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Boston that provides low-income members of the mental health recovery community with access to low-cost or free arts and entertainment opportunities.

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