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New Directions Career Center Outcomes

Success stories of women who overcame life-changing events

Flora Yee, 2021 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Flora first came to New Directions after seeing a flyer in the local library. She had lost her job as a graphic designer in the 2008 recession and her family was forced to drain their savings and retirement funds. In 2011, she decided to go back to college to become a registered nurse to support her family. Flora joined the first E³ cohort at New Directions, and her transformation began.

“Without the support of the New Directions Career Center, Godman Guild, and the women in the E³ program, I don’t know where I would be. I received opportunities for career and educational exploration, placement testing to assess my academic skills, scholarship leads, and help with completing applications and proofing scholarship essays. The support groups, which I attended until the pandemic occurred, were a great way to connect and get encouragement from women going through similar situations. I built a social life outside of family, and a personal life that was just focused on me and my goals.”

In 2017, Flora graduated Columbus State Community College with her associate degree, and in 2021, Flora completed her bachelor’s degree in Nursing at the Ohio State University. Throughout her journey, Flora continued to regularly use the resources at the center, attending support groups and participating in individual employment services sessions.

Today, Flora is a Nurse Care Manager earning a family thriving wage at Quantum Health. She says, “This has been an 11 years+ long odyssey of a dream come true for me and my family.”

Shadena Carter, 2020 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Shadena came to New Directions feeling ready.  As a teen, she had tried to get an education, but became pregnant, left school and then started using substances to cope with the hardships she was facing all alone.  Then one day, years later, “I heard God’s call.  I entered the wonderful world of recovery and have not looked back.”  She had hope, yet she was barely making ends meet on disability income and food stamps.  It was at this point in 2016 that Shadena came across an E³ flyer and “decided that if it was meant to be, the door would open” for her to complete college.

At New Directions, Shadena discovered career direction and a supportive community.  “I didn’t try to go at it alone anymore.  Anytime I was ready to give up, I called my mentor Eve.”  One day, Eve called Shadena to inform her an anonymous donation to Columbus State covered her past debt and resulted in her transcript release.  “The SPARK was ignited!  To this day, I don’t know who that donor was, but I want you to know your investment paid off.  I used the spark you ignited for me to spark other in various places.  I took off in 2017.”

In 2020, Shadena graduated with honors from Ohio Dominican University and since 2019, has worked as a Customer Service Representative at State Auto.  “I take my job seriously,” she says, “I look forward to my continued career growth in this industry.”  She also shares hope with others through her volunteerism, advocacy and leadership as a board member for the YWCA.

Our 2020 Woman of Promise is the embodiment of ambition, dedication and resilience. She now uses the spark she got at the Center to elevate and achieve her new goals.

Katie Cautela, 2018 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Two years ago Katie came to the Center feeling broken. She had just celebrated seven years of sobriety but felt something was missing in her life. After experiencing a job loss her sole means of support became a struggling small business that scarcely provided enough income to make ends meet each month. Katie heard about a program that could equip her with the skills she needed to make her dreams a reality. She joined the New Directions program and her transformation began. Katie felt empowered, safe and supported while at the Center. With encouragement and guidance from staff members Katie found the strength to create plans, tackle fears, go on to nursing school and accomplish steps toward her goal.

Today, Katie is the sole ambulatory nurse within the detox unit of Maryhaven, helping other addicts on their road to recovery. She says, “Every day I get to ‘pay it forward’ and ‘give back’ what was so freely given to me. This is such a rewarding feeling, to love your work. I finally love myself for the first time in my life. I could not ever have gotten here without the help of [the Center].” Our 2018 Woman of Promise reflects resilience, tenacity and compassion. Like many women who receive a “hand up” in their lives, she now uses her newfound hope, strength and purpose to bring light to others facing challenges.

Kelli Rudie, 2017 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Years of chronic illness and setbacks in her career left Kelli feeling frustrated and financially strained. Feeling like she was out of options but determined to persevere, Kelli joined and completed the Center’s New Directions program for women in 2015. New Directions gave her the opportunity to meet other women who also struggled with career and financial security. “I found others like me in experience, in struggles, in desires for financial independence,” she says. “I found acceptance and hope in the words and ideas being presented.”

Appreciative of all who helped to build her skills and confidence, Kelli credits the New Directions program with assisting her to dig down deep and listen to her own voice. She envisioned the career woman she wanted to be — emerging with a renewed sense of acceptance, hope and confidence. Upon graduation, Kelli was quickly hired as a full-time office manager with benefits supporting a local hospital. Kelli works incredibly hard at her role, experiences increased confidence and career success, and serves as an inspiration to other women in the community. Today, Kelli informs the Center of job opportunities through her employer and provides assistance to prospective applicants, bringing the help she received full circle.

Darlene Wesley, 2016 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Darlene came to the Center as a newly single parent, struggling to keep food on the table, and in a new city. Darlene says, “one momentous day, I went to the public library and was told about New Directions Career Center. I hoped New Directions would help me with job readiness skills and to find a job. What I actually received exceeded my expectations and changed my life. While at New Directions, I learned how to clarify my life’s vision, set goals to achieve my desires, and use my gifts, talents and skills to actively pursue and obtain employment.”

After graduating from the Center, Darlene got a job at Sunrise Senior Living as a care manager.  After a year, she decided to go back to school full time and I earned my Masters’ degree in Social Work at The Ohio State University.

Darlene is now a licensed social worker employed as an adult outpatient counselor at Maryhaven. Most recently, she has been accepted in the MBA program at a local university and will start classes in the fall.  Her plan is to start a profitable online health and wellness business.

Saundra Cunningham, 2015 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

In 2001 Saundra’s career as the first female supervisor for the City of Columbus Park Maintenance Department ended unexpectedly.  At a crossroads in her life, unemployment led to self-doubt and insecurity as Saundra searched for her next career move.  Through the New Directions program and Individual Career Counseling, Saundra began to explore her skills, strengths, and weaknesses.  The programs and assessments confirmed her entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to advocate for others. In her words, “I found my calling despite the fact that my journey seemed bleak and my choices appeared to be limited. The support granted to me by the staff during and after the program was exceptional. I recommend that any woman at a crossroads in her life attend this program. It is truly a blessing.”

After graduation from NDCC, Saundra chose to advocate for others by pursuing a legal career. She received a full scholarship for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program through Capital University Law School and completed the program in 2010. Yet another first in her career, Saundra became the first Franklin County Foreclosure Mediation Coordinator after serving on the Foreclosure Task Force for less than one year. In time, her entrepreneurial drive would lead her to start her own business – TSC Mediation Services.

“I am forever grateful to the Center and the experiences I had in the classroom. I enjoy the new-found person I have become who is able to spread knowledge, compassion, joy of life, as well as provide inspiration to others.”

Bethia Woolf, 2014 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Bethia was unemployed and at a crossroads in her life when she came to the Center in 2009. She did not want to go back to her previous career in the athletic arena as a rowing coach, but was not yet sure what her next calling might be.

Through the Career Counseling Bethia received at the Center, she began to explore her skills, strengths, and weaknesses and received much needed support and perspective.  Throughout the process of self-discovery and taking action, pieces started to fall into place, and Bethia found herself feeling more confident. “The confidence I received from my time at New Directions helped me to take the plunge and start my own business. In 2010 I founded Columbus Food Adventures with support from my now-husband Andy.”

Over the past four years, Bethia’s business has grown substantially. She currently employs six guides and has spun off a quickly growing sister business – Columbus Brew Adventures. Bethia is highly respected in the community and contributes to several Columbus food blogs, writes for Crave Magazine, and is a co-host of station WCBE’s weekly Foodcast program. She is a passionate ambassador for the Columbus food scene and serves as a board member for Slow Food Columbus and Dine Originals Columbus.

“I am very grateful to the Center for nurturing me when I needed someone to listen, provoke, and advise, and I’m happy to help give back to others making a similar journey.”

Kathy, 2013 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Kathy has come full circle, from a recipient of the Center’s services to one of its outstanding leaders as a member of our board of trustees. In 1980, Kathy sought services from NDCC after a divorce that left her responsible for her three young children.  The Center’s licensed career counselors worked with Kathy to tackle her fears, regain confidence, and develop a career plan.  The hard work and sacrifice paid off:  Kathy earned her undergraduate degree from OSU’s prestigious Fisher College of Business in 1987 and a master’s degree in Labor and Human Resource Management in 1994.

In 2013, Kathy is happily remarried and works as a Vice-President for The OSU Alumni Association. Kathyhas earned the respect of her staff, colleagues, and the people she serves in her leadership roles at both OSU and NDCC.  And, most importantly, she is respected by the three, much-loved children who shared her journey. Kathy says, “I often tell my children – and this is also the advice I give other women in crisis – you are much stronger than you think and things are never as good – or as bad – as you think they are. You can do anything you set your mind to – just do it.” 

Stephanie, 2012 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

In 2007 when she entered the New Directions program, she was at a personal and professional low point in her life, with marital problems and a job that was going nowhere. “I went through the daily routine of my life as if in a dense, impenetrable fog,” Stephanie said. But New Directions teaches women strategies that can change their lives. Stephanie says of her time at New Directions: “We learned the skills that would make us competitive in today’s challenging economy — everything from professionalism to self-marketing to effective interviewing. Our plan for change, for achieving our career goals, was very real by the time we graduated.”

And with those skills she gained something else: confidence and the ability to imagine a new life for herself. “New Directions Career Center (NDCC) taught us all a great deal about dreaming big and creating the lives we envisioned,” said Stephanie. After graduating from NDCC, she began taking graphic design classes at Central Ohio Technical College and Columbus State Community College, eventually earning a certificate in digital media.  But that was just the beginning for Stephanie. As she put it, “These successes prompted me to dream bigger and bigger. I dreamed of Hawaii and a much different life.” Realizing she had outgrown her marriage, Stephanie and her husband divorced; she accepted a position as an instructional designer and earned her master’s degree at the University of Hawaii.

After three and a half joyous years living in Hawaii, she made a new home for herself in Silicon Valley and now enjoys a fulfilling career as an instructional designer, creating online classes for Altius Education. And her journey isn’t over. “I am still a girl who dreams big,” Stephanie says.

Bonnie, 2011 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Bonnie, a 1992 graduate of the Center’s holistic and intensive, New Directions program, sought out Center services in the aftermath of a traumatic event as part of a multi-faceted healing process.  Not only did the licensed professionals support her in addressing this ordeal, but the class prompted her to release false or outdated beliefs regarding who she was and what she could achieve.  It empowered her to consider marvelous, previously unimagined, possibilities. “I started to throw off old belief patterns and ways of thinking about myself,” stated Bonnie.  “I stepped out in faith to pursue a new path, and learned that every little step counts on your journey.”

This self-awareness, along with an exciting, newfound belief in her abilities, energized Bonnie to return to school and establish a rewarding career in the travel industry.  During this time, she also achieved personal fulfillment, when she and her husband assumed legal custody of three foster children.  They welcomed these three boys into their home, providing the love, structure, and nurture necessary to guide them to maturity.

As Bonnie’s sons neared adulthood, and the travel industry underwent major changes, she once again used the tools and talents she developed at the Center to chart a new career path for herself.  Today, her sons grown, Bonnie is the founder and CEO of an internet business which creates and sells personalized CD’s for children.  “Creations for Fun” incorporates play with personal creativity to develop the child’s sense of self.  Bonnie credits her success, to the concrete skills – coupled with the lessons of self-worth – she first learned at New Directions Career Center.

Jacqueline, 2010 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Jacqueline, a 2004 graduate of the Center’s intensive, New Directions Program, is this year’s “Woman of Promise” honoree. Jacque came to New Directions Career Center while undergoing transitions in her personal and professional life. In the process of leaving an abusive marriage, she describes herself as “lost and fearful about reaching out for help.” After learning about the Center from another woman who shared her own painful story and how the Center had helped her succeed, Jacque called and enrolled in the New Directions class. Jacque’s “aha” moment came in the class during exercises related to setting healthy boundaries. The counselors helped her to realize that her inability to set and enforce appropriate boundaries with people in her life was keeping her from achieving her own personal and professional goals.

Jacque began to set clear boundaries, establish healthy relationships, and work toward achievement of her career plan that she developed in the New Directions Program. Upon graduation from the program, she went directly to Columbus State Community College, where she studied Mental Health Counseling for two years, while working a part-time job. She then obtained full-time employment, and has worked the last three and one-half years, as an Insurance Account Assistant—while continuing her education in paralegal studies.

Jacque plans to complete her undergraduate degree from Capital University and then enroll in Capital’s Law School to become a Family Law Attorney and advocate for families. She currently serves as Vice President of the Pre-Law Association on campus, has volunteered with CASA, and served as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children. In addition to this full schedule, Jacque continues to volunteer for NDCC – sharing her message of hope with women who are currently enrolled in the New Directions Program.

Sally, 2009 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Before enrolling with New Directions Career Center, Sally had lost her husband of 30 years and had lost her job. She stated that she had lost her “joy” and her self confidence “hit rock bottom”. She learned about the Center from Frankie Nowlin, an NDCC board member who had told her about the Center’s programs and services for women in transition. Sally’s “aha” moment came while completing the 4-week course. She says that the Center gave her the gift of self confidence—she started to like herself and developed courage to further her education. Following graduation from New Directions, she went on to complete a degree at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) in Computer Science and she worked for CSCC until late 2008.

Sally is still in her journey as a Woman of Promise. She made the decision to leave her position at Columbus State in 2008. She worked with the NDCC Job Placement Specialist to put a career change plan together. She was recently successful in obtaining employment with a website developer (part-time) and with a homeopathic health and wellness provider (part-time). She is happy with her new positions and when she talks about the recent transition she states, “I am healthier now than I have ever been. I have found my joy and I want to share it with everyone.” Sally continues to share her message of hope with graduates of New Directions Career Center. She regularly donates her time as a speaker on the graduate panel and shares her story with the women enrolled in the 4-week program.

Toska, 2008 Bostwick Scholarship Winner and 2013 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Toska is a 2008 graduate of the New Directions program and a recipient of the Bostwick Scholarship. As a single mother of a teenage son, she loved her work as a part-time sign language interpreter but knew she could do more to help the deaf community. With the help of NDCC, Broadway enrolled at Columbus State Community College with a goal to transfer to Gallaudet University (GU) in Washington, DC to study American Sign Language. After a trip to Costa Rica, where she witnessed severe poverty first-hand, Toska decided to major in International Relations, focusing on strategies to end poverty. She recently traveled to Guatemala to assist in setting up a camp for deaf children and has been accepted into the International Development graduate program at GU.

Toska commented, “When I look back over the last three years, I am in awe at how my life has changed…I still, to this day, refer to my NDCC handbook and have my poster at school with me as to not forget who I was and where I am heading.”

LaShawn, 2007 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Before coming to The Center, LaShawn says her life was “a mess.” “My husband was in school and we couldn’t provide for our family. I was grateful when a family member recommended the New Directions Program to me. I don’t know where my life would be right now if I hadn’t enrolled.” LaShawn’s “aha” moment came during a barrier reduction session at NDCC: “I learned that I had to take care of myself before I could be prepared to care for others,” she reflects.

Since graduation, LaShawn has worked for the Central Community House managing health and community outreach programs. She enjoys her free time with her family and spends countless hours giving back to the community.

Lisa, 2006 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

“I came to the Center as a new single head of household with three children. I enrolled in the New Directions Program, and with the assistance of a Career Counselor, created a map for my life. That map emphasized that if I took care of myself financially and emotionally, I would empower myself to make better decisions.”

After graduating from the Center, Lisa took a job as an orderly at Riverside Hospital and began her journey to self-sufficiency. Although far from her “ideal job,” the position gave her current work experience and an opportunity to prove herself as a hard-working and dedicated employee. With new-found enthusiasm and confidence, she approached Peter Jennings of ABC News when he was in Columbus and asked him to do a story about the working poor in Middle America. In his “Person of the Week” segment, Mr. Jennings told the country of Lisa’s struggle to keep her family intact while facing many barriers.

Lisa continued to use all of the tools and skills she learned in New Directions to improve her work situation and ultimately to achieve her career goal and attain economic independence. Today Lisa is a Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Columbus, a homeowner and a volunteer who enjoys giving back to her community.

Edwina Mae, 2000 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

“At The Center, I gained knowledge and planted seeds to grow in the direction of my choosing. I gained self-worth, self-respect, self-love and most importantly I found my own unique ‘voice’ in this world. I hold a deep gratitude for the Center for being there years ago in my darkest time. Each day for me brings a new opportunity to see and experience the beauty of this universe—thanks to New Directions.”

Today, Edwina Mae is an ALL STAR employee at Nordstrom. She is also a passionate and accomplished artist. Her paintings appear in many galleries, juried shows and private collections throughout the country.

Sandra, 1998 “Woman of Promise” Award Recipient

Sandra came to the New Directions Career Center when her husband lost his job due to a company cutback. He started a house rehab and remodeling business but the jobs were sporadic and provided no health insurance. Sandra felt a deep concern because they were raising their four year old granddaughter. In addition, she had been an agoraphobic for 15 years. Feeling scared, lost and worthless, she turned to the Center for help. At the Center, Sandra developed her self-confidence and after graduation, put into action what she learned from the New Directions Program. She decided to pursue a career related to her love of ice skating, so Sandra took the initiative and proposed to The Ohio State University to create a position for a Director of Recreational Instruction. Sandra was hired. In 1993 Sandra was also hired onto the faculty as an instructor in the School of Physical Activities and Education Services. In 1997 she was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a role that has allowed her to create public awareness and support for the growing number of grandparents raising grandchildren and the struggles they face. In 1998, she was named the Center’s “Woman of Promise.”

In 2001 Sandra resigned from the Ohio State faculty and took a newly created position at Children’s Hospital entitled “Kinship Navigator.” This was a program she helped to establish in every county in Ohio. The program later became a model for the entire country. After two years, she left the position and in 2003 went into semi-retirement.

Today, Sandra is still the Ice Skating Director at the OSU Ice Rink, where she oversees the instructors, the curriculum and the “paper work” for the Learn to Skate Program for over 1,000 children and adults each year. She serves on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Advisory Council and has made many trips to Washington D. C. advocating for relative caregivers.

Some things have changed since Sandy was a “Woman of Promise” recipient. Her husband died in 2001. Her granddaughter, whom she and her husband raised, is now a young woman, who also attended the Center’s New Directions Program and recently started her own pet sitting business. In 2004 Sandra re-married. She says, “I attribute all of my success to building on the tools and confidence I received while at the Center.”