At only 19 years old, she’s navigated homelessness, moved across the country, and started college – all while raising two kids. Tatiyona Williams is truly an inspiring young woman.

After leaving her family and moving to Minneapolis in October 2014, Tatiyona had more than her first Minnesota winter to conquer. With no high school diploma, few friends and no job, Tatiyona needed help – fast.

Pictured are Tatiyona Williams (right) and her HIRED counselor, Suzanne Stein (left)

Pictured are Tatiyona Williams (right) and her HIRED counselor, Suzanne Stein (left)

She enrolled at Broadway High School, which helps pregnant and parenting teens earn their diplomas and prepare for college. Through the school, Tatiyona was introduced to Emily Dolentz and

Suzanne Stein, two counselors in HIRED’s TeenHOPE and PACE programs. TeenHOPE is a unique collaboration between HIRED and MVNA (Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency) that provides education, employment and parenting assistance to young women. As a part of TeenHOPE and PACE, Tatiyona met regularly with Emily and Suzanne, as well as a visiting nurse who taught her about child growth and development. Thanks to the support around her, Tatiyona graduated from high school in less than six months.

Today, Tatiyona is taking classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and plans to follow a career path in special education. In middle school, Tatiyona found herself volunteering at school with students who had autism and down syndrome. Still today, she’s impacted by the friendships she built during that time in her life, and keeps a five-year-old thank you note in her locker to remind her of her dream to become a teacher.

To help her reach her goals, connect her to the community, and gain work experience, Suzanne suggested that Tatiyona complete an internship. She began interning at Cookie Cart as a bakery assistant. Cookie Cart, located on Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, is a non-profit bakery that provides hands-on work experience for teens. Tatiyona’s hard work and perseverance shined through within her first few shifts as an intern. She was quickly given more responsibilities and within two months, she was offered a permanent position at the bakery. Tatiyona frequently mentors younger teens at Cookie Cart, patiently helping them learn kitchen basics and customer service skills.

Tatiyona’s success is no surprise to those who know her. In fact, Suzanne describes Tatiyona as a young woman who balances the demands of motherhood, school and work with admirable strength and determination: “She continues to impress and inspire those around her. Tatiyona is a self-starter and is on top of EVERYTHING. She has defined goals for herself and her family, and knows what she has to do to get to where she wants to be.”