Jessica Fazio is an Engagement and Donor Stewardship Relationship Manager at United Way/Centraide Windsor Essex County. Her own challenges as a teenager make her a strong advocate for the work we do. She has a special place in her heart for the On Track to Success program – something she wishes was around when she was growing up.
“I didn’t think I would be able to make it to post-secondary school,” said Jessica. “I wasn’t going to have financial support from home. I had no savings because my part-time job helped pay the bills and put food on the table, and I didn’t have the best grades because picking up a shift at work came before my homework. I was a student who lost hope in a dream because of the multiple factors working against me.”
It wasn’t until her second last year of high school that one of Jessica’s teachers, Mrs. Mueller, gave her that hope back.
“She stepped in and became a strong support system for me, helping me apply for bursaries and scholarships, and was a good listener when I needed someone to talk to.”
One day after class, Jessica confided in Mrs. Mueller about not being able to pay for a passport to attend their end of the year trip. The following week, Mrs. Mueller handed her an envelope with an abundance of change and bills, as well as a note saying that her entire class chipped in whatever they had to get Jessica her passport.
“I will never forget the support I felt in that moment from my peers, and especially from Mrs. Mueller.”
Thanks to the mentorship, guidance and direction Jessica received, Jessica went on to graduate from the University of Windsor with a Bachelor of Arts in Families and Social Relations and Psychology. Today at United Way, Jessica champions programs like On Track to Success, designed to helped children and youth living in low-income reach their full potential. It’s a program she admits would have benefitted her growing up.
“Everyone needs a Mrs. Mueller in their life, especially kids who have so much potential but are facing barriers that prevent them from living up to it.”
“It’s because of my past experiences that I am so passionate about helping kids in low-income succeed, because I needed an On Track to Success as a kid. The program just speaks to me in such a personal way.”
United Way’s On Track to Success program offers supports that wrap around a family and help kids graduate high school and go on to post-secondary education - the clearest pathway to a life of prosperity. The program also seeks to assist youth to develop skills and career networks to help them to succeed in the 21st Century job economy.
Your donation to United Way helps young people get the support they need to be successful. Students receive a $1,000 bursary for each year they’re successful in the program, as well as a laptop to help them with their studies.
United Way is the backbone organization for ProsperUs – a collective of fifty community partners championing on a Cradle to Career vision for Windsor-Essex – where all children and youth have the opportunity and support to succeed, from the time they’re born until they land their first job.