Ayla was a twenty-eight year old mother, out of school, and without a job. She was working with Julie Mazzariello, her Reach Up Case Manager at Economic Services, when a spark to do some personal work to build a better life ignited and started to blaze. Ayla was then connected with Merry Laird, a VAL Reach Up Employment Specialist.
“I was early in my recovery (from substance use),” Ayla said. “Both Julie and Merry gave me the hope and motivation to take it one day at a time while reinforcing that I could do anything I set my mind to. After a few months, I finally found a passion and established a goal for myself—to become a drug and alcohol counselor. Merry helped me with career interest assessments that, actually, reinforced my stated career goal. She also helped with my job search and started talking to me about going back to school.”
Ayla was receptive to Merry’s advice that it wasn’t too late to earn her college degree. Merry scheduled her for the ACCUPLACER, a test CCV uses to make accurate course placement decisions for new students. Ayla started taking classes that very next semester. Ayla, who has a remarkably bubbly personality, was invited to staff CCV-Rutland’s Front Desk in a Work-Study job. Today, Ayla works at CCV full-time as an administrative assistant and attends classes part-time as she makes steady progress towards earning her associate’s degree.
“Merry and Julie were wonderful. They were so warm and trusting. With Merry, I was very vulnerable at that point in my recovery and she really showed me that my goals were achievable. She also gave me the occasional kick in the butt that I needed. She was really persistent. She met with me every week, giving me small tasks to accomplish that boosted my confidence.”
Ayla, in striving to succeed, needed to get into the habit of attending her weekly appointments with Merry. She was so early in her recovery that her life felt very disorganized. She acknowledges that she wasn’t fully driven in the beginning, not until she was able to define her goals and see that light at the end of the tunnel. Merry and Julie remained steady, supportive presences in Ayla’s life.
“Today, I’m the first one in the building (at CCV) every morning,” Ayla said. “I leave work by 3:30 to get my 11-year-old son, go home, make dinner, do homework for myself as he does his, sleep and repeat. CCV is a very supportive employer. I have built some amazing relationships with my co-workers. CCV is a great place with great people. I don’t know how I got so lucky!”
Ayla is on track to earn her associate’s degree in 2023. She plans to enroll at Castleton University to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degree to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor.
“I would not have believed four years ago that I’d be where I am today,” Ayla said. “I learned in my recovery process that, if you lie, you won’t get the help you need. Once I was able to be truthfully honest, I was given resources for AA meetings in Rutland. Overcoming my fear of being honest got me the non-judgemental support I needed to succeed. I learned a lot about Vermont services and myself. An important takeaway for me has been realizing it’s okay to not be ‘okay.’ And, in those moments, ASK FOR HELP! You may be surprised where that journey will take you. Asking for help was the best decision I made.”
“Ayla, with her brilliant smile, walked into my office looking for some help finding a part-time job in customer services or as a personal care assistant,” Merry recalled. “I asked her if she would mind doing a Career Personality Inventory with me before we started putting in applications. Ayla was surprised to learn that, as an Idealist/Realist, her strong personality traits included being a compassionate nurturer, an independent worker and a problem solver. We created a list of potential careers where this personality would thrive. Ayla left my office saying she needed some time to rethink her goals. A week later Ayla returned with a fire in her eyes. She announced she wanted to find out more about continuing education. There were many twists and turns along the road for her as she worked with me to prepare for returning to college. She never wavered and was always moving forward. Ayla has been such a joy to work with and it has been such a pleasure to see her growing and thriving.”
Learn more at www.vtadultlearning.org