When Alissa Campos was 9 years old, she and her younger sister were removed from their mother’s care and placed in the home of their great aunt in Midland, Texas. Alissa was old enough to know her mother wasn’t doing well and she spent the rest of her childhood angry at her for not taking the necessary steps to rectify the situation.
“When I was younger, me and my mom’s relationship was really great. She was a good mom,” Alissa said. “The last time she went away, I had so much anger and so much resentment and sadness, it was just horrible.”
As a result, Alissa had to grow up fast. While her aunt doted on her younger sister, Alissa always felt she was an outsider, someone who just came with her baby sister. She never was able to establish a connection with her aunt.
But Alissa was determined and ambitious. When she was just 16 years old she completed a certification to get her CNA license. But nobody would hire her because she was under 18.
Just before she turned 18, she had the opportunity to meet her mother for the first time in years. It was awkward, she said, but they stayed and talked for hours. After that conversation, Alissa and her mom started communicating more through text messages and on the phone.
Alissa came to Dallas to visit her mother and her half sisters. Her mother was living at Buckner Family Pathways, a transitional home for single parents to receive affordable housing, child care and counseling while attending college.
During the visit, Alissa’s mother encouraged her to apply to the Buckner NextStep program, a transitional home for young women who have aged out of foster care and located on the same campus as Family Pathways. Alissa didn’t want to leave Midland so she just put the thought behind her.
But she continued to think about it and just weeks after graduating from high school, she moved to Dallas and was accepted into the program. Living on the same campus has helped Alissa and her mother repair their broken relationship. Talking to her mom and half sisters used to be uncomfortable for Alissa but now it’s completely natural.
“We spent a lot of time apart and I spent a lot of time hating her,” Alissa said. “And it doesn’t feel that way now. Like it feels like we’ve been together all this time.”
Alissa was able to see the positive changes in her mother and see how Family Pathways gave her mother the direction and help she needed to be a good mother and student.
“She works really hard,” Alissa said about her mom. “I wish I could work that hard. I really do.”
Where there was once resentment now there is only admiration. Alissa marvels that such a transformation has taken place.
While Alissa may not think she works as hard as her mom, she is determined and has goals too. She started attending college to renew her CNA certification and work toward her associate degree. She continues to get certifications as an EKG technician and in phlebotomy. Eventually, she wants to become a nurse.
“I actually kind of hate school,” Alissa admitted. “I hate school so much, but I go every single day because it is interesting and it was something that I actually liked.”
The counselors at NextStep have helped Alissa with resources and guidance to help her succeed after she leaves the program – such as learning to make a budget and saving. They even helped her navigate how to buy a new car.
“Buckner has done so much for me and my family,” Alissa said.
And now Alissa is even more a part of the Buckner family. When Ventana by Buckner, the newest Buckner senior living community to open in Dallas, was hiring, Alissa applied and was hired as a CNA in skilled nursing. She works the night shifts so she can still attend school during the day.
It feels very natural for Alissa to work with patients, and it’s something she has grown to enjoy.
“It just kind of feels like I’m just there to help them. And that’s really it,” Alissa said. “And you get to know a lot of these patients and they talk to you. It’s nice.”
Alissa has one more year in the NextStep program and she is determined to glean as much information as she can during that year.
“I have goals,” Alissa said. “I need to save more because I don’t want to be in a bind. I need to learn to budget. I’m trying to be as independent as I can be.”