Finding Flexibility and Strength in Hardship: Taquisha’s Juma Story

As an experienced cashier, Taquisha knew what to expect from most jobs, but when she found Juma, she was surprised. When she saw all that Juma had to offer, she knew the program would be different from previous roles. At her Juma interview, she immediately felt comfortable enough to ask questions and be herself. She was excited to find a team who would be on her side and push her to be her best. But almost as soon as Taquisha started her Juma journey, COVID-19 changed the world she worked and lived in.

Thankfully, Taquisha’s Juma Program Coordinator had no intention of letting her slip through the cracks. As soon as stadium closures were announced, the Juma team sprung into action to find new ways to keep young people safely engaged and earning. Soon, Taquisha was back to learning skills for her future from the safety of her home and earning income to help support herself and her daughter. 

As the mother of a two-year-old, Taquisha was happy to find that Juma’s hours were flexible and designed to support her. In the few shifts she worked prior to the stadium closures, Taquisha was glad to always get home in time to say goodnight to her daughter and check-in with family before they went to bed. Once programming switched over to an online model, Taquisha also enjoyed the flexibility to participate in classes on topics like resume writing and interviewing in timeframes that worked for her schedule.

At Juma, one of Taquisha’s favorite things to learn was her own aptitude for different tasks and skills. “I took a test that categorized me and gave me options to give me ideas of what I’m good at and great at and least good at. It helped me think through my future and what I should reach for and about what kind of careers would be a fit for me.” Learning more about herself gave Taquisha motivation to work toward things she had been scared to try as well as new ideas for her future.

Taquisha’s favorite part of being in the Juma family has been the connections she’s made with coworkers and Juma staff. “We have little meetings with our coworkers and also with my manager Ashlee. We talk about things and everyone shares how they’ve been doing and what things have been changing.” 

Taquisha was happy to find that communication with her teammates did not decrease during the pandemic. Her relationship with her manager has grown even in the absence of in-person shifts. “Ashlee recently sent me an email giving her appreciation to me and letting me know that she was really proud of me and that if I ever want to talk she’s there,” said Taquisha. “I’m motivated to keep going because of the love. The team is a big family. If you can’t work with them you’re never gonna get anywhere because this team helps you learn to work with others.”

While the strain of staying indoors and keeping her daughter safe during the pandemic has been an emotional rollercoaster, Taquisha is grateful that she’s had Juma to give her a way to earn money and focus on positive goals. The pandemic has made it hard for Taquisha to plan her next steps forward, but she is happy to know that she’s developing skills which will be useful no matter what the future holds. “Juma is guiding me in the right direction. It’s giving me assessments to make decisions about my future. Basically just giving me an open mind to not focus on one thing but to try to combine different strengths. Not to put all my eggs in one basket.”