Susan Nakintu moved to the United States from Uganda when she was 14 years old. She’s the firstborn child in her family, made up currently of her mother, who lacks education, and her siblings. She lost her father when she was younger, meaning it’s her duty as the oldest child to provide for her family.

Susan has always aspired to become a nurse and knew it required education beyond high school. She was brought to Louisville by a host family and graduated high school in 2017. She then began the process of enrolling in Certified Nurse Assistant training, a prerequisite for nursing schools in the area.

During a visit back home after her graduation, Susan became pregnant. When she delivered her exciting news to her host family, it didn’t take it as warmly. The family gave her a grave ultimatum: abort or move out.

“When I came back here, they told me to abort,” Susan said, “and I told them I cannot accept this decision. They told me, ‘If you will not abort, you have to leave, and you have to get out of the house.’ So that’s how I started life.”

She worked part time at McDonald’s to get by. She eventually saved enough money not only for her own car but for her five-week CNA training. Her family, specifically her mother, had always been her motivation, but now, she said, she had someone else to work for, from afar.

“I had to take my son back home to stay with my mom,” she said, emotionally.

With her motives in mind, Susan completed her five-week CNA training course. Her next step was applying for nursing school, which required her to save more. This is when she was introduced to Goodwill.

Susan, now 21, joined our Hurstbourne team as a part-time employee just before the COVID-19 pandemic in March and connected with career coach Cathy Vawter, who completed a career plan for her. Little did Susan know, Goodwill offered tuition reimbursement.

Since Susan already funded her way through training, Cathy was able to submit a request and have a check for reimbursement mailed to Susan shortly after the documentation of completion was received.

“I’ve never had a job like that,” Susan said. “I was really so happy when I talked to her and she told me about that.”

“I was surprised. I called my mom: ‘This job I got; they are willing to bring back the money I paid.’ She was really so happy. I was so surprised about it. Because I’ve never had a job like that before.”

Cathy began preparing Susan for her next step, which is the main goal behind Goodwill’s tuition reimbursement program. If she chose to pursue more schooling, the program would reimburse up to $5,000 a year. She even explored avenues that would allow Susan’s child to move to the U.S.

However, Susan chose to take another giant leap toward her goal: She graduated from Goodwill on October 2 and is now a registered CNA.

“I don’t know, in recent times, I’ve seen anybody with this kind of drive,” Cathy said. “… This gal still has had challenges, but she was determined enough. … I would work with this kind of person every day of the week. It makes me even prouder of what we do at Goodwill.”

Susan’s journey has been anything but easy, much like other Goodwill employees and/or program participants. With help from Goodwill in the form of tuition reimbursement and career coaching, Susan is that much closer to her goal despite her challenges.

But ultimately, it’s up to the individual to use that hand up – not handout – to move closer to self-sufficiency. And for Susan, there’s no looking back because of her motives back home.

“My mom, she really wants me to be become somebody,” she said. “That’s why I’m working so hard. To be the person that I want to be, because I want to make her proud.”