“After I found LifeWorks I experienced a rebirth. I learned that my past mistakes were forgiven and that I was worthy.” That awakening moved Shawntae Bennett from a place of hopelessness to renewed hope and began a journey that would take her life in a new direction.
Fresh out of high school, Shawntae was living in a transitional motel as a single mother raising a toddler. This brought its share of challenges. The environment was far from ideal for raising a child, and Shawntae struggled to keep a roof over their heads. Her retail job barely provided her with enough of an income to cover rent. She felt trapped. One day her neighbor mentioned hearing about the LifeWorks program through Summit Church which had been promoting the program to residents at the motel.
Curious about the opportunity to engage in a program that could lead her to a better job, Shawntae was soon attending classes. What she learned was far from what she expected. Receiving practical tools to improve her career skills was only the beginning. She also learned that God loves her and saw the evidence of that love through her mentors who encouraged her to keep going even on the toughest days. “ I did not know that God had something to say about the attitude that we should bring to our work,” she declares, “and that no matter where we are we should take our best attitude to work every day while working towards getting to where we want to be.” Shawntae had a long-held dream that had seemed unreachable, but it was reignited during career counseling at LifeWorks. She was encouraged to take the first step towards achieving her dream of one day becoming a school teacher.
Because of LifeWorks’ alliance with businesses and organizations within the community, Shawntae received a scholarship to Valencia College. This enabled her to take that first step towards her dream. As she had learned the value of networking through LifeWorks, bolstered by her new-found confidence, she built new relationships and put her networking skills into action. Through a classmate, Shawntae learned of and gained a position in the Orange County Public School system. Bringing a positive attitude to work every day, she started out as a cashier in food service while still pursuing her studies on a part-time basis. After earning her associate degree, she was quickly promoted to Program Assistant, a position which came with a pay raise that enabled her to be far more self-sustaining.
Picking up where LifeWorks left off, Valencia provided further career counseling, and they pointed Shawntae in the direction of the University of Central Florida (UCF) to continue her studies. She is currently enrolled at UCF and expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education by early 2019, placing her in a position to actualize her dream of becoming a teacher.
“Before LifeWorks I felt lost and confused,” states Shawntae. She acknowledges that the program helped arm her with the courage to pursue things she did not consider previously. She applied to Habitat for Humanity, and after providing the ‘sweat equity’ for about three years, she was able to purchase her own home. This proud mother has provided a fine example of hard work to her young daughter, who is now a straight A student in middle school. Shawntae’s encounter with LifeWorks provided the impetus for a string of accomplishments which formed a stepping stone for her own child to build on. “When I started this journey, I did not understand God’s promises, but today I have Christ and His Word to stand on so that I don’t waver on His promises.” Shawntae Bennett’s attitude and life have come full circle since she first started in the LifeWorks program, and today she is reaping the rewards of her labor, her positive disposition, and strong faith.