What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? Goodwill Success Story

For as long as we all can remember we’ve dreamed about what we would do “when we grew up”. This month’s Goodwill Success Story Spotlight has also been dreaming about this notion since she was a young girl. Her dreams were a little different than most of ours. She didn’t dream about being a nurse, teacher or actress; her dream seemed simple, to make the world a better place. This kind of a dream can lead someone down a very interesting path, as it did for Katie.

As unconventional as Katie’s path was, at 19 she decided to join the military. She left the South side of Chicago, her family and all she knew to be familiar. Her military career took her all over the world, and gave her experiences most only hear about in news reports. After an 8-year career, Katie’s dreams took another jog along her career path. She became an English teacher, and eventually a Disease Intervention Specialist for the state of Indiana.

Although these “jobs” were contributing to her dream of making the world a better place, she was feeling she hadn’t yet found that place where she belongs. Through her pursuits of finding that place she belongs – the proverbial path she was on took a dark turn.

In Katie’s words, “Perhaps my longing for fulfillment made me susceptible to suggestion. I was lost in the dark. I stumbled through the next few years suffering a greater loss with each tumble. I lost my spirit, my independence, my sanity, my family and, ultimately, my freedom.“ 

After a few short months of meeting a man who was disguised as a knight in shining armor, he convinced Katie her life was meaningless; that her family, children and society would be a better place if she was not a part of it. An unsuccessful suicide attempt took her back to a pseudo-life with this man that eventually ended with Katie outside of herself, looking in and seeing herself as someone with an addiction to meth.

Her addiction led to incarceration and again to questioning her life, her purpose and her dreams. In April of 2014, she was given a referral to Goodwill. She thought it was a referral for a job at a Goodwill store. She was unaware of the many programs Goodwill Industries of Michiana has to offer individuals just like her. Katie entered the 2nd Chance @ Work Program in September of 2014, and began working at the Mishawaka Community Career Center. A few months later, she became a facilitator for the Workforce Development Skills Training Program.

Katie’s Goodwill Case Manager, Omeria, was able to really listen to Katie’s story. She saw in her potential, her heart for wanting to make a difference, and her passion for bettering her life. According to Katie, “Sometimes you have to lose everything to find out what is really important. I feel I am where I belong right now. I am happy, and I have the good-will of Goodwill to thank for helping me get back on track.”

We are so proud of you, Katie…
you are fulfilling your dreams!
You are making an amazing difference in the world!


Jakelia Taylor is a 23 years old mother of 4. She is the Industrial Services Supervisor at Goodwill Industries of Michiana.

Jakelia got her start with Goodwill through a program called 2nd Chance @ Work.  This program is designed to help people with criminal backgrounds gain career skills with a goal of achieving full-time employment. In Jakelia’s words, “Had it not been for the compassion of the caseworkers and staff running this program I really don’t know where I would be in life right now.”

Through a string of events and bad decisions, Jakelia turned to a life of crime and drug abuse that led to a conviction and criminal record. As part of her conviction Jakelia found herself required to obtain employment to pay for court fees or face jail time. This is when she reached out to the 2nd Chance program. After 12 weeks in the program, she was ready for a work-place experience. This stepping stone of the program offers hands-on experience in a given field.

Jakelia was able to secure a full-time job and many other resources that aided her in her recovery. She explains the next phase of her journey:

I was released from Community Corrections for good behavior. After about 7 months of working I ran into child care problems and I was forced to stop working for about 2 months. I became very discouraged and I figured the odds were against me. I felt there was no way to get ahead in life with a criminal background. During those 2 months I reached out more than ever to different government assistance programs, again I was turned down because of my prior. I began to slip back into my old habits, doing the only thing I knew to make money. As time went on I began to just see life for what it was. I knew if I sat back and did nothing about the situation I was in, no one would help me. So again I began to ask around for help. Finally I was offered child care. I then was able to get back into the program and start where I left off.

She worked hard and was offered a position as the Industrial Services Coordinator at Goodwill Industries of Michiana. She has held this position for over a year.  Her current goals include starting school.  Jakelia sums up her story by saying, “Who would have thought me, a 22 year old ex-felon, could overcome the odds I overcame. This is really just the beginning of my story. I have not closed my book yet and I am ready for a new chapter in life and very thankful for the chapters leading up to this. I want to give Goodwill thanks for the amazing helping hand to not only me, but my family.”

For more information about the 2nd Chance @ Work Program, please click HERE.