January 1, 2016
“I Want Them to Believe That They Matter”
“Women don’t usually ask for help,” explains Mercy Learning Center (MLC) president and CEO, Jane Ferreira. “They could be suffering—hungry or cold—but they’re too proud to ask for help.” But help with basic necessities is what too many women enrolled at MLC need. “So we try to be good observers and quietly offer help where we think it’s needed,” says Jane. Last year just about half of all enrolled students received casework for issues including domestic violence, abusive landlords, illness, hunger and homelessness. MLC’s goal in working with each woman is to remove these barriers, clearing a path for continued education.
As MLC’s caseworker, Marissa Rodriguez is on the front lines, meeting with women all day every day, helping them with their problems. “Problems that would bring tears to anyone’s eyes,” says Marissa. The work is tough and the stories are heartbreaking. But there is no one better qualified than Marissa, herself a graduate of MLC. In 2005 she earned her GED® at MLC and went on to study at Housatonic Community College and the University of Connecticut. She also served a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army and recently married a fellow soldier. Now, she is back at MLC, working hard to make sure other women have the same opportunities she had. “In the last 10 years, I’ve come full circle,” she remarks.
Marissa is motivated both by her own experience as a woman who had to fight for her education and by the amazing women she helps each day: “Little do they know that they are my inspiration and motivation. Ultimately, I want them to believe that they matter.”