From Program Participant to Fulltime Staff Member – Chevella has Come a Long Way with Santa Maria

In August 2022, Santa Maria welcomed Chevella Johnson to our work family as a Work Experience Coordinator, but this isn’t the first – or even the second time – Chevella has been connected with Santa Maria.

Thirty-four-year-old Chevella grew up in Price Hill along with her fiancé, Malcolm, 36. Their six children, Amiyah-16, Bre’Nay-11, Malcolm-9, Noah-6, Naomi-6, Malayah-3 have been growing up here too, although the family is moving to nearby Delhi this month. Chevella graduated from Dohn Community High School’s 22+ Adult Diploma Program and began attending Union Institute and University in 2020. She hopes to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work.

“I first came to Santa Maria for the Every Child Succeeds (ECS) program; I was referred by Good Samaritan Hospital for having a high risk/low income pregnancy. I was already a parent, but I felt I could still benefit from ECS,” Chevella said. ECS is Santa Maria’s early childhood development program that assists mothers with babies during their crucial first 1000 days of life. ECS partners with agencies like Santa Maria to provide comprehensive home visiting services to optimize child health and development for families from low-income backgrounds in Butler, Clermont, and Hamilton counties in Southwest Ohio; and Boone, Campbell, Grant, and Kenton counties in Northern Kentucky.

While in ECS, Chevella’s family had Amanda Kaufenberg, Family Support Worker, as their home visitor.  “My family and I absolutely love Amanda,” she said. “She has been a Godsend. She is empathic and sincere; she really became a rock that I could depend on during a tough time. I cannot say enough great things about her!” Amanda helped Malayah learn her colors and shapes, among other early childhood milestones. Malayah graduated from ECS in July 2022.

While in ECS, Chevella also benefited from Project Lift assistance though Santa Maria. Project Lift works with Santa Maria to help families remove barriers to securing sustainable income and achieving financial stability. Funds from Project Lift helped Chevella get into her degree program. Chevella felt like the hardest part of the work she put in as a Santa Maria program participant was seeing things through to the end. She said, “I had trouble juggling motherhood and working fulltime in the beginning. That eventually eased a little, although it can still be a challenge.”

Chevella’s experience with Santa Maria didn’t end when her daughter graduated from ECS. She went on to join Project Advance AmeriCorps at Santa Maria. AmeriCorps is a service program where volunteers work fulltime for eleven months. In return, they receive a living allowance and college tuition assistance. Chevella is proud to say she served her community in AmeriCorps as an Economic Coach at Santa Maria. Helping build the Little Food Pantry at Santa Maria’s Joe Williams Family Center had a deep impact on her life. She said, “Working as an AmeriCorps member has been a highlight, so much so that I have changed my major to Social Work because Santa Maria has inspired me to continue the work that I have done so far.”

Volunteering wasn’t new to Chevella. It has been a big part of her life. She said, “I have a passion for social work and being as resourceful as I possibly can. I have participated in volunteering throughout the greater Cincinnati area from the Freestore Food Bank, where I helped provide meals, to Mercy Neighborhood Ministries where I helped our elderly community.”

Fast forward to today and Chevella was hired as a fulltime Work Experience Coordinator on our Workforce Development Team! She said she pursued a career at Santa Maria because, “Santa Maria is a great asset to the Price Hill community and shares my views when it comes to providing resources to the community.” Chevella is excited to continue her life journey at Santa Maria. She said, “I am so pleased and excited to be a part of the Santa Maria family, serve my community, and help those who need it most by providing people with the resources and coaching needed to succeed.”

Santa Maria is so pleased to welcome Chevella to our work family!