Macke: One decision away from a new life

Published 7:41 am Friday, July 6, 2018

At 18, Kierra Rankins didn’t know where her next meal was coming from. From the time she was just 5, life hardened this child to where she thought she was worthless.

In 2005, her family lost everything when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. She moved to Port Arthur and ran with the wrong crowd. She was rebellious, didn’t listen to anyone and began drinking at a young age. Kierra’s confidence and self-esteem had vanished.

In 2016, her father was in a horrific accident and was in a coma for almost a year. Life is not fair to me, she would tell herself. Life was just one bad thing after another. It was way too much for any young person to bear, but life was not done with Kierra.

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Depressed, she dropped out of high school and over the next year or so, dove deeper into the darkness of alcohol and trouble.

On Aug. 29, 2017, just when Kierra didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. Hurricane Harvey called, pushing her again. She became homeless, couldn’t keep a job, and was alone without family to help.

Hanging out with friends, she was an innocent bystander at a shooting where she was almost hit. And as though the flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused a cleansing of her mind, Kierra knew at that moment she had to change her life if she were to make it to her 21st birthday.

Motivated to be more with her life, she walked through the front door of the Texas Workforce Solutions where she would meet the first of three people that would help her reshape her life.

Frances Rivera of Texas Workforce was first in line, letting Kierra know about available training programs. After Kierra passed her pre-test with flying colors, Rivera said, “You’re so smart, what took you so long to want to finish school?”

Positive reinforcement from a complete stranger made more steps forward possible.

Kierra regained her self-confidence, enrolling in training the very next week. She began to feel as though she could change her life. She enrolled in the Experience & Training Program and was sent to work at the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce. There, Finance Manager & Executive Director of the Education Foundation Joseph Tant and Raquel Ochoa took her under their wing.

She knew nothing about working in an office setting, but step by step, with confidence growing daily, she started to learn. Today, with the open mind to learn new skills, Kierra can write a grant, schedule meetings and create spreadsheets.

Kierra now has her GED, has a better-paying job, has enrolled into Lamar State College Port Arthur and plans to mentor kids and young adults who have lived through similar struggles, seeking to motivate and support them and to pass along the graciousness bestowed upon her.

The words below are just a few Kierra wrote and shared during a speech while being a part of a “Resume Writing and Interviewing Skills” class:

You can do it. I know it is hard to listen to someone just say it, but why not hear it from somebody who actually did it? Each and every one of you can be someone’s assistant manager, intern, sales consultan, and hey, if you want, be your own boss! You were put here for a reason, and all it takes is a little motivation for you to find out why. If you don’t listen to anything else I’ve said just know you are important! And some day I just might work for you!

I would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Joseph Tant and Mrs. Raquel Ochoa of The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce and Ms. Melissa Carter as well as Ms. Francis Rivera of the Texas Workforce Solutions of Southeast Texas. These few people have completely changed my life and they have truly been a blessing to me. Thank you!

Kierra Rankins’ motivation and focus to change her life for the better should be a testament to every living person that says, “It can’t be done.” She is right: Yes, it can! You just have to want it.

One never knows who they will meet that will offer opportunity. Kierra could have easily become overly nervous, intimidated and not gone back to Texas Workforce Solutions. She could have slipped back into what she’d known as her normal life.

But she did not. That choice changed her life.

Good for you, Kierra Rankins, Good for you!

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.