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Paying It Forward

Her community helped put her on the road to success. Now she wants to give back.

A Personal Mission

Meet Liz Cintron, a senior at Georgetown University and a shining example of how helping one person realize their dreams is a victory for all of us.

Liz's Path to Success

Liz is eager to succeed. All she needs is the opportunity.

Liz is studying to become a nurse. She dreamed big and worked hard to get this far, but like each and every one of us, she also received some help along the way. Liz was able to save enough money to attend Georgetown in part because of her involvement with a Youth IDA (individual development assets) program supported by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. The program matches the savings of participants, while providing a combination of rigorous financial literacy training and peer support.

Liz’s journey reflects the broader journey of the community she calls home. She was born and raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a town hit hard by the recession of the early 1990s and again with the global recession that began in 2008.

Despite all the challenges, Lawrence is a testament to the enduring belief that together we can build a better tomorrow. Nicknamed the “Immigrant City,” Lawrence has always been a beacon for individuals and families looking for a better life. First came the Irish in the 1840s, driven to cross the Atlantic in search of new opportunities during the hardship of the Great Potato Famine. The wave of European immigration continued until the 1920s; four decades later, Hispanics hailing from Latin America led a new wave of immigration.

Today, nearly three quarters of the people living in Lawrence are Hispanic, and many of them speak Spanish as their first language. The language barrier can be an impediment to climbing the ladder of opportunity, but it’s not the only one. That’s why United Way partnered with local non-profit Lawrence CommunityWorks to connect people with services ranging from financial education and coaching to career training and job search assistance, credit counseling, English as a Second Language (ESL), free tax preparation assistance, and more – all under one roof.

Mills along the Merrimack River in Lawrence

Seeing the Big Picture

The rationale behind such a comprehensive approach is this: many of the people walking in the door are looking for assistance with an immediate need like food or rent, so why not use this moment to also address more long-term, systemic challenges that stand in the way of a better life for them and their families? We can feed and clothe people and put a roof over their heads, but we can also go a step further and offer solutions that empower people to start their own business, go to college or purchase their first home.

The results achieved thus far underscore what a difference we can make when we tackle the source, not just the symptoms, of community challenges: three out of four people who took advantage of services at the financial stability centers in Lawrence and nearby Chelsea, Massachusetts improved their credit score or net income. The average increase in credit score was 31 points and the average increase in monthly net income was $697.

Improving Lives Across the Community

Among other financial stability services provided in 2013, United Way helped Boston-area individuals and families save more than $10 million of their hard-earned money with free tax preparation assistance.

How many people have benefited from financial stability coaching and services like these?   Imagine legions of passionate Red Sox fans cheering from the seats at Fenway Park. More than 30,000 spectators have come for some R&R, but what if they left with a set of new skills that could help them find jobs that pay a livable wage and take care of their families over the long term? That is what United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and their partners have achieved thus far. Since 2010, 25,881 people have gotten jobs and another 4,390 advanced in employment thanks to new job skills and opportunities.

Behind those numbers are the success stories of people like Liz Cintron. Last summer, she interned at the nationally renowned Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston through the Hausman Fellowship for Minority Student Nurses. The internship afforded her the opportunity to rotate through various units in the hospital including General Medicine, Surgical Trauma, Medical Intensive Care, Orthopedics, and the Emergency Department. She also engaged in weekly discussions regarding culturally competent care and diversity in the nursing workforce.

Graduation is fast approaching for Liz, and she’s currently in the process of applying to nursing job positions. We know she’s going to be a stellar nurse, because she’s seen firsthand the impact that passionate and civic-minded people can make when they LIVE UNITED.