Pursue excellence; Ignore Success.

Emperatriz is practicing the advice of Deepak Chopra, MD., when she pursues excellence and ignores success.Emperitiz-web

What on earth does this mean?  Who wouldn’t want to recognize success?  Turns out, the ability to overcome our mistakes  is a huge indicator of success, so when Family Self-Sufficiency Participants like Emperatriz move forward in jumps and pauses, they might be on the right track. Emperatriz certainly has not had smooth sailing, but she always learn from her mistakes, and isn’t that the only way we understand ourselves by testing our limits?

“Strive for excellence, ignore success.” – Professional driver Bill Young said this.  Blogger Bill Roberts says pursuing excellence is “crippling to the mind and spirit.”

We could say a lot about Emperatriz:

  • How proud her children are that she is overcoming so many past difficulties,
  • How much she has to say in favor of the teachers and fellow students who are helping her reach a goal,
  • How, deep inside, she always knew someday she’d succeed,
  • How she made a choice to change her life.

But all we really need to know is that last month Emperatriz took part in a wonderful celebration.  One of her fellow students at the Brockton Public School’s Adult Learning Center successfully passed the Citizenship Test and all fifteen students and teacher rejoiced.

Now, Emperatriz is even more motivated to study, and she is glad for the services she receives in order to prepare herself.

This woman always makes us smile!

Shamika-UsraySeveral months ago, when Shamika graduated from all forms of government assistance, we happily published her story.  It is an uplifting tale, to say the least, and it had a big impact upon our residents and our Family Self-Sufficiency Participants.

When she grew her income to the point where she is no longer eligible for assistance from HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, Shamika bounced into the FSS office with a big smile on her face.  “Get out your camera,” she sang out, “I’m ready to be a witness.”

As the story of Shamika’s path to self-sufficiency unfolded, we could see the reason for her confidence and good spirits.  Her journey to self-sufficiency had taken several twists and turns, but Shamika had finally reached the point where she could fully support her family.

Of course we published Shamika’s accomplishments.  As dramatic as this story is, however, it is only one of 65 such achievements that we are happy to promote when asked.   

The real story, however, is what happens when we tell our resident population about someone like Shamika.

Just a few weeks ago our next future graduate dropped into the Family Self-Sufficiency office, carrying a post card with Shamika’s photograph and recount of her journey. “I’d like to sign up for this program,” Lisa announced.  “I can do this.  I want to be like Shamika.”

Family Self-Sufficiency Escrow Accounts

NormaR When she started escrow, Norma, seemed almost surprised.  “It really works!” she exclaimed.  Yes, it does.

Twenty two (22) Participants began Escrow during 2012.  (We’ve already had 5 for 2013.)  Residents plan to use their funds in a variety of ways, but here in Brockton we let them take out portions ahead of the five-year FSS term, under certain conditions, of course.

Last year, three Participants used some of their funds to repair their vehicle, a huge plus when you consider that we all need to be able to get to work every day. Another popular use for a partial withdrawal is money to pay for classes, books, or tutoring for a breadwinner who is enrolled post-secondary. 

We’ve even paid for things like real estate exams, or nursing certificate exams.

We are asked a lot of questions about these accounts. Often, people think they “qualify” for them, almost as if they were some sort of grant.  The real story is much more empowering, however.

Escrow begins, and grows, according to a resident’s initiative. It only happens when a resident reports more earned income.  You get a job, you pay more rent.  That’s the rule of public housing and the rule of HUD’s HCV program.  If you are not on FSS, that rent increase goes to the agency. 

But if you are on FSS, some of those rent increases (if they are due to earned income) go into a savings account.  Yes.  They do, really.  Ask Norma!

Escrow Accounts

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Residents in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, or living in Federally-funded public housing, pay rent on a sliding scale fee.  As their income grows, their rent does too.  But Family Self-Sufficiency residents can have these rent increases put into an escrow savings account, (if the increase is due to earned income.)

When we explained the Family Self-Sufficiency program to Nathaniel, he immediately requested to join.   He understood that, since he is in school full time right now with no earned income to report, this is the best year for him to enroll. 

Being a full time student while raising two teenagers and a toddler is not without challenges, especially since Nathaniel is a single parent, but he has solved many of the difficulties. 

“We’re focused and organized,” he explained.  “We keep everyone’s schedule listed on a board in the kitchen, and we hold family meetings to talk about anything that is on anyone’s mind.  Every quarter, we share report cards, even Dad.”

Nathaniel believes this helps keep his boys focused on their own school careers.  “I admit to my own poor grades on the rare times that it happens,” he explains, “So they will know how to learn from mistakes.  You can’t just give up.”