Aurelia is a 43-year-old single mother to two teenage sons living in Sugar Hill, Georgia. When she went back to school to become a dental hygienist at Fortis College, Aurelia struggled to keep up with rent and other finances. Through her participation with H.O.P.E. Inc., Aurelia not only received support that allowed her to keep her home and stay in school, but it taught her how to budget and maintain financial health beyond graduation.
Working as a dental assistant for over 20 years, Aurelia knew that she wanted to one day pursue her degree to become a hygienist. “I wanted to go back to school, since I was burnt out from my old job,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do something more in dentistry.”
However, attending school and keeping up with her bills proved difficult. Aurelia found herself refereeing sports games on the weekends to help cover her monthly expenses, but it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet. As a single parent, she also wasn’t receiving support from her childrens’ father to help get by. “I started to wonder, how am I going to do this?” Aurelia says.
It was around this time that Aurelia’s college program director sent an email referring her to H.O.P.E. Inc. Looking them up, she was encouraged by H.O.P.E.’s mission and dedication to financial assistance for single parents. After applying and meeting with Kenita Smith, H.O.P.E. Inc.’s founder, she was chosen and became the program’s 100th participant!
“That answer — getting into the program — was really special,” she says. “It saved my house, and it kept me in school.”
H.O.P.E. Inc. was able to provide Aurelia $400 a month in rent assistance, helping her maintain her housing bills. However, the program’s support did not stop there. Through monthly budget coaching, resume writing courses, and professional and life development coaching, Aurelia learned how to manage her resources and set goals for the future. “The program doesn’t just support you, but it helps you support yourself,” Aurelia says. “I’ve become a stronger person because I can utilize my budget and see where my money goes. I’ve learned valuable life lessons.”
On July 14 this year, Aurelia graduated from Fortis University at the top of her class, winning the award for top clinician. She recently passed her national board exam, and she currently has a job lined up post graduation.
“It’s been a wonderful experience — it’s been life changing,” Aurelia says. “That’s why as a postgrad, I’m going to give back so that H.O.P.E. can continue to help other people that are in a similar situation.”
“H.O.P.E. feels like having a big sister or family that is there to support and guide you as you go through school, giving you the tools you need. When you don’t think there’s anyone out there that can help you or understand what you’re going through, the program gives you that feeling of being understood and loved by others who are going through the same thing and have the same goals. You are not alone.” (Aurelia, 2023 Graduate)