Jul 24, 2020 3:46:00 PM

American at HeART

Myat, a Karen refugee, continues to embrace his culture while growing and evolving as an American through the power of art and education.

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Jul 21, 2020 4:32:47 PM

Working Hard to Transform a Dream into Reality

Shana took on her life goal of becoming an Registered Nurse after getting a push from the people who believed in her and support from Central Iowa Health Works.

“You have to be darn-near psychotic to take on nursing school. It takes so much of your time. They can only teach you so much. There is so much outside of the classroom you need to know to be a safe nurse,” said Shana Plambeck, recent graduate of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Nursing Program.

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Mar 27, 2019 12:44:09 PM

The Top-Notch Nurse We Almost Didn't Get

When Rhonnie finished class in the afternoon, she would get into her car, just like other nursing students at Mercy College. But she wouldn’t head home to study. Instead, she would cruise the city, looking for a parking space to spend the night, while silently mouthing that day’s lessons to herself.

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Apr 20, 2018 11:19:15 AM

Refugee, graduate, future nurse

Tara still talks about her graduation day with excitement three months later. As everyone filed out of the auditorium and her family waited to take photos outside, Tara stayed, holding onto the moment.

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Mar 19, 2018 5:10:59 PM

Hurricane survivors get taxes done for free

Six months ago, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico with winds up to 175 miles per hour. The storm upended Soleil's life. Fortunately, another Maria was there to help her get back on her feet.

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Mar 6, 2018 12:19:05 PM

The Friendship that Saved a Family

Lisa has many lessons to teach her four children.

There’s 13-year-old Solomon—smart but anxious, excited about marine biology. 11-year-old Gabriel loves to read and helps around the house with a smile. Isabella, 7 years old and the only girl, is stubborn and independent—an artist and fashionista. The baby of the family—4-year-old Aziyah—is a natural sweetheart. He plays hard and loves to snuggle. His blond curls attract the family’s hands like a puppy’s fur coat.

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Sep 12, 2017 11:57:33 AM

The Boy No One Thought Would Go to College

Standing in front of a judge, facing 17 years in prison on drug charges, Matt Gogerty was asked what we wanted to do with his life. At an age when many kids are going off to college and choosing careers, the 18-year-old didn’t even have a high school diploma. He could only think of one reply to the judge’s question: “A used car salesman.”

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Jun 1, 2017 2:04:13 PM

After All the Doors Slam Shut

Two years ago, when she was homeless in Redhead Park on the East Side, living out of a suitcase, sleeping on a bench, and quitting crystal meth cold turkey—Michelle Jackson would have been shocked to know where she'd be in a few months.

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Apr 30, 2017 5:17:41 PM

Hope is Never Lost

At age 30, Mikeesha came to a crossroads. A single mother of two, she was unemployed and struggling financially—with no clear plan for where to go next.

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Apr 25, 2017 9:17:24 AM

A Bridge to His Dream

Aaron had received all of his test scores except one. He waited through the weekend. He worried when he would know. Then, the news came: “You passed!”

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Jan 25, 2017 5:05:05 PM

Like a Boss

Gil Gonzalez-Jacob still remembers what he wore to his first real job interview nearly four years ago: a blue dress shirt with a bow tie and black slacks. Sitting beside him, Gil’s mother talked him up to the interviewer in Spanish. “She was pretty much interviewing my mom for me,” he says with a laugh.

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Dec 16, 2016 4:04:17 PM

Now Hiring: A Fearless Woman

Elizabeth Magok went on dozens and dozens of job interviews. But she never got a call back.

“They tell me they are going to call me, and they don’t call me,” Elizabeth remembers. “I don’t know why. What was wrong with me?”

Elizabeth, now 30 years old, grew up in South Sudan and came to the U.S. as a refugee five years ago. To support her four children and send money to family back home, she took minimum-wage jobs in food service, hospitality, and retail. But the language barrier prevented her from finding a higher-paying job.

“When I came here, it was really hard for me to understand,” she says. Elizabeth speaks softly, and though her English has improved tremendously, you have to lean forward to catch her quiet, melodious voice. 

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Nov 1, 2016 10:39:26 AM

A Shot at Success

Someday, Donna Mitchell might make a film about her life: the homeschooled Des Moines student who went on to publish novels and produce independent films. It will be a long road, but Donna is up for it. She has already cleared the first hurdle: earning her high school equivalency diploma (HSED) through the Bridges to Success program.

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Nov 1, 2016 9:02:16 AM

Taxation Without Trepidation

Seven years ago, Amina Nuhanović was laid off from her job as a CPA. She didn’t sulk. Her experience coming to Iowa as a Bosnian refugee at the age of 13 had taught her to be strong in the face of adversity, to keep going no matter what.

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Oct 4, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Strong as Oak

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Oct 1, 2016 5:00:00 PM


Coming as a refugee to Iowa from her homeland torn apart by civil war, Rebecca faced many barriers. No relatives, no job, not even the ability to speak or read English. Rebecca turned to the HOPE Initiative, and now has a job, a driver's license, is learning to read and write English, and she knows her kids can have the future she always hoped for.

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Oct 1, 2016 3:00:00 PM


Struggling with three children and unstable employment, Shaneice found herself suddenly evicted. Homeless and with nowhere to go, she faced her fears and went to the shelter. Before long, with their help she found a job, an apartment, furnishings and many of the things she needed to get back on a path to safety and stability for her family. Overcoming the shame and fear of her situation helped her learn that there are a multitude of resources, people and places willing to help. She just had to be willing to ask.

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Oct 1, 2016 3:00:00 PM


Connie and her husband utilized the many resources available, such as financial coaching, career research, affordable housing and child care and more. Because people cared enough to help, Connie's family knows they are stable, safe and have a bright future.

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Oct 1, 2016 3:00:00 PM


Michael's depression and agoraphobia left him unable to function in society. With debt bearing down and no clear path out, Michael realized he needed help. He found help volunteering to unload trucks at the Bidwell Riverside Center, a United Way funded partner. Over time the volunteering helped Michael overcome his agoraphobia, freeing him to seek additional career education to put him back on the path to stability and success.

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Oct 1, 2016 3:00:00 PM


As a single mom, Kanisha worked two jobs trying to make ends meet for herself and her son. But working hard meant she made "too much money" to qualify for assistance, even though her wages didn't cover her basic expenses. A determined and optimistic woman, Kanisha found help from the HOPE initiative. After finishing her education and earning her cosmetology license, Kanisha has opened her own business and is well on her way to financial stability and independence.

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