In “Cristina’s” words: My past does not define me

The following speech was delivered by “Cristina,” a survivor and graduate of Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), during the January 2021 graduation. Of the 43 graduates, three were selected by class vote to share their thoughts and experiences with the audience.

Read “Cristina’s” speech: 

My name is “Cristina,” and 7 years ago I made a mistake that would deeply impact my life. As a result, I ended up in prison. I found myself hopeless and in despair.

A month before being released and coming home, my lawyer reached out to me and told me about Sanctuary for Families and the Economic Empowerment Program. Learning about EEP was the beginning of me becoming my best self. In the past, all I felt was isolation – now, I feel ready to jump in and take on what the world has to offer me.

During the program, it felt good to wake up every morning and be a part of this community. I have truly learned in my time with EEP that while we all make mistakes in life, my past does not define me – who I was in the past is not who I am today. I sit before you with eyes opened to the importance of career development, and in possession of the knowledge of how to succeed in my career. Between the Microsoft Office certifications and interview preparation I have received as a participant, I’ve built up a confidence that I never imagined achieving.

None of this would have been possible without the support of this program and this organization – the computers, books, and materials provided guaranteed that I could finish the program without having to worry about the struggles that life often brings.

I have many people to thank – first, I give thanks to Kate and Allison for telling me about Sanctuary. Thank you to my children, family, and friends for never giving up on me. Thank you to Angelo J. Rivera, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program. Thank you to Sarah – every time I wanted to give up, she continued to push me. Lastly, thanks to Jill Hopfield for always being there for me at every turn.

With EEP, I gained a new family that I know will always be there for me, no matter what I am going through. I have a team in Sanctuary for Families that gives me hope for my better tomorrow.

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.