When Moriah Berchtold enrolled in Santa Maria Community Service’s (SMCS) Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) in 2018, she was homeless and seeking employment and High School Equivalency (HSE) services. Now her living situation is stable, she is a mom to a beautiful five-month-old baby boy, and is a full-time student at the University of Cincinnati. However, these changes did not happen overnight. With the help of staff at SMCS, Moriah worked hard to achieve her goals and has exceeded all expectations, proving that this is just the beginning of her journey toward building the life she envisions for not only herself but for her son, Dominic.

Moriah began working with Santa Maria’s HSE program in December of 2018. Despite having only completed the ninth grade, Moriah passed all four of her HSE tests in just one month and completed her GED in January 2019. “Completing the GED is a goal that it is very difficult to put a timeline on because students are attempting to fit four years’ worth of knowledge into four tests,” explained SMCS Education Instructor, Rose Hamzy. Rose continues, “Moriah completed her GED within just one month. Her dedication to her educational goals should be an inspiration to all. Moriah put in the work and did not back down from a challenge.” It is extremely rare for students to obtain their GED this quickly, and this achievement speaks to Moriah’s hard work and determination in continuing her education.

Getting her GED in one month is just one example of Moriah’s resiliency and unwillingness to give up. Lyndsi Fitzsimmons, Moriah’s former Workforce Coach, reflected on Moriah’s determination stating,

Moriah has so much resiliency and determination. I learned so much from the fighter spirit that she has, and from her persistence in working toward her goals regardless of any setbacks she had to encounter. She was in a homeless shelter several months before giving birth to her son, and Moriah took that experience and used every resource available to her to obtain stable housing before he was born. It truly was an honor to be able to walk alongside her in her journey.

 Upon receiving her GED, Moriah quickly began researching colleges, where she wished to continue her education by pursuing a degree in social work. In August 2020, Moriah enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and is now a full-time student. Moriah wishes to find a job in residential mental health working with teens. Having previously been in the foster care system, Moriah understands the struggles and successes teens can experience, and wants a job where she can give back. Moriah wishes to support and mentor teens going through the same types of struggles she endured to encourage them not to give up on their goals.

Despite all of Moriah’s barriers, she never gave up on her goals. She now lives in her own apartment with her son, and has her own car. Moriah shared: “Santa Maria helped me with interview clothes, applying for benefits, and helped me earn my GED. They were always there for me. I couldn’t have succeeded without Santa Maria.” Thanks to the staff at SMCS and Moriah’s hard work, Moriah is now on her way to a career where she will be able to pay it forward and help teens who are in similar situation to the one she was once in.  Lyndsi Fitzsimmons shared her hopes for Moriah, saying,

My hope for Moriah is that she achieves all the things that she sets out to achieve, and that she is confident in the fact that she is enough and she is valued by those that encounter her. I also hope that she will gain strength through her mothering of the beautiful baby boy she has, and that during the difficult times to come that she will continue to tap into the fierce spirit that she has to be able to endure and overcome any challenges that life may throw her way. One day, she will be a social worker, and she’ll be able to encourage and advocate for others from the strength of her experiences. That will be a gift to all those that encounter her.

To help other incredible youth such as Moriah, please consider donating to Santa Maria Community Services at