“I honestly don’t know how I’ll make it, but I can see the long-term goal so it just keeps me working harder.”
Tara is a preschool teacher who is also in school, working toward her Bachelor’s degree. The high cost of tuition works against Tara’s ability to finish school and provide opportunities for her children, but she never stops trying to get on her feet, even when hard times knock her down.
Living in poverty for part of her childhood motivated her to attend college. “I really just had this vow to break all negative cycles and knew I would need a college education if I was ever going to get where I wanted to be.”
Tara was in school when she discovered she was pregnant. Unaware of the financial aid process, she dropped out of school to support her family. “I just stopped going to school and got a job. When I tried to go back to school it was horrible because I needed financial aid at that point but I had these barriers. To this day I am still battling things from that quarter. I found it very unforgiving, you know. Very unforgiving.”
She’s currently back in school and very determined to finish. “I’m no longer receiving financial aid and I’m paying tuition to get a little bit better degree and it’s hard. To be fighting for my education every quarter has gotten really tiring. I honestly don’t know how I’ll make it, but I can see the long-term goal so it just keeps me working harder.”
In order to pay for school, Tara works as a preschool teacher, but must work side jobs to cover her expenses. “I’ve been in a preschool classroom for the better part of twelve years now. I’m a teacher because I love what I do.”
Tara continues to work hard and believes in the importance of her job, even in the face of big challenges. Her current workplace does offer benefits, but she can’t receive them because of her position. In fact, Tara has never received benefits from an employer.“The center I work at now is the first one that offers benefits, but the position I work in isn’t eligible for them. I know people that have worked in the same position in the same center for years and not gotten more than a twenty-five cent raise. For what we do, it’s almost at the point where it’s intolerable, but we love what we do and we know the kids need us, so we keep doing it.”
Despite working multiple jobs and being determined to finish school, Tara hasn’t been able to build economic security for her family. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Policies that ensure affordable higher education, access to workplace benefits, and a living wage would help guarantee equal opportunity for all families, so that women like Tara can pursue their dreams of going to college and making a better life for their children. “I just need to do this right now both to keep my job and to get my family where I want it to be.”
For more about economic mobility, including other Ladders to Opportunity stories, please visit this page.
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The State of Working Washington 2018: Part 4