“The East Tennessee Collaborative program altogether is helping people become self-sufficient. It’s giving people a boost and speeding up the process of getting where they want to be,” said East Tennessee Collaborative participant, Ronnisha.

Ronnisha has been resilient through life’s challenges. Her greatest joy in life comes from her faith and her role as a mother to her four incredible children. As a single mom, she has worked diligently to care for her family and has pushed through hard circumstances to achieve many milestones for herself and her children.

One of these milestones happened in 2017. After months of pain and countless doctors, Ronnisha was diagnosed with a rare brain condition. She underwent brain surgery and soon began her long recovery. Ronnisha reflects on her surgery, “I couldn’t even walk. I stayed in the hospital for 17 days straight. I didn’t know if I would ever get better. I had my kids I had to care for; it was so hard.”

During this time, Ronnisha continued pursuing her education through online schooling. “I knew I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to fail,” said Ronnisha. During her recovery, she received her associate degree in business management.

Ronnisha now serves as the Program Director at a local nonprofit and helps young people discover their path forward. It was through her job that Ronnisha got connected to East Tennessee Collaborative (ETC). She was struggling to find housing for her family, and her boss encouraged her to join the program to get support. After getting matched with an incredible mentor who understood her needs and passions, Ronnisha was excited to join and get started.

Ronnisha’s mentor helped settle her immediate housing needs, and then they began working to create a path towards her goals. 

“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Ronnisha, “My mobility mentor is just there for me. When it comes to school, to work, to my goals, she’s just there for me, supporting me through it all.”

While Ronnisha still struggles with chronic pain and complications from her health condition, her mentor is a tremendous supporter and has taught her how to celebrate and be proud of her accomplishments. While she used to see her life as full of obstacles she had to push past, she now sees the resiliency of her spirit and courage to continue dreaming and working toward her goals.

Ronnisha continues to pursue more education. She has now received her bachelor’s degree, and she is currently working towards her master’s degree in business administration. She hopes to one day run her own nonprofit focused on mental health and creating safe spaces for all people.

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