Newly employed mother always sacrificed for family: ‘I will not risk losing my children to any government system’
Who is Ishanna McDonnell?
Race / ethnicity (self identify): African-American
Resident: Eastside, Syracuse, New York
Job status: HIRED! … after being unemployed since June 29, 2015
Brief work history: Wegmans grocery store for 12 years; ALDI grocery store for eight years
Last job: Cashier at ALDI
Hourly wage at Aldi: About $13 an hour
Education level: Four years of college
Number of children: 3 boys and 1 girl
Number of residents living in household: 6, including boyfriend
Ishanna McDonnell landed a job less than two months after she was interviewed for this Q/A. As of the end of March 2016, McDonnell has been working as an administrative assistant for the director of property management at Housing Visions, a division of Visions for Change. Starting hourly wage: $13. McDonnell had relied on Visions for Change to help her search for a job. But Rhonda O’Connor, director of community development at Visions for Change, says job openings are not limited to people in the Visions for Change program. “We open the doors up for these individuals. We show them what’s available based on their skills. They still have to apply for it. The housing division chose her (Ishanna) over everyone. They really liked her credentials. … There’s really room for her growth.”Read on for McDonnell’s insights, which she shared while she was unemployed.
A sit down with Ishanna McDonnell
Q: Can you share your special skills?
A: I have extensive experience in customer service. I consider myself to be a leader of any position I handle. I always put my best foot forward, and I’m a team player, so I make sure that we are all on the same page to reach the same goal.
Q: What did you like most about any previous job you had?
A: When I was at Wegmans, I was in charge of landscaping. I had to make sure that the grounds were always presentable, and I made sure the store is always looking its best. In that year we were in competition with four other Wegmans, and I won for landscaping. They took pictures and printed it in the Buffalo paper, and a picture of me was on the wall of fame at Wegmans. If you are an exceptional employee, they’ll take a photo of you and place it at the entrance of the store.
Q: How do you get around Syracuse? What do you use for transportation?
A: Public transportation
Q: Right now, what is your biggest challenge you face daily?
A: Finding a job that doesn’t interfere with my children. To be honest, family is most important to me. I actually grew up in a foster care system, so I have actually no family. My children are my family. First and foremost even before finding employment is making sure that my children have everything they need. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m not working. I will not risk losing my children to any government system.
Q: What are your options for job searching in Syracuse?
A: This is my first time not being employed, and I would like to find a position somewhere where I can actually grow. At the same time I want to find a place where I’m not leaving my children to fend for themselves. When I first came to Visions for Change, I didn’t know what to expect. This is actually my first time applying for public assistance. I’m trying to make it work with my children and with any company.
Q: What do you want others to know about you as an unemployed person?
A: Until you’ve actually walked down that road of not finding employment and not getting responses, you don’t know the difficulty.
Q: What gives you hope?
A: If I stop, I’ll end up like my biological mother. I know what it could look like if I stop — that’s what gives me courage to always do the right thing. I have my babies looking up to me who depend on me. My faith is also very strong. Knowing that the Lord is not going to give me more than I can bear keeps me going.
Q: What causes you to feel discouraged?
A: It seems like looking for a job is a job in itself. Syracuse doesn’t really have that many job opportunities. It makes you think that you wasted your time in school or training.
Q: What is a typical weekend like for you?
A: My kids come home, and everyone is excited because there is no homework to be done. I just keep my family close.
Q: Do you have a hobby? What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I never really have free time. My time is held up with my kids. If I had free time, it would be going to buy things for my children. I am constantly thinking about them.
Q: What is the job you would like to have now?
A: To be honest, my dream job is creating a not-for-profit organization. I was a child in the foster care system, and I would like to take it a little further because there wasn’t an organization out there for me. I would love to have a safe haven for children to come to where they could receive the love and support that they need. A place where they could build positivity in themselves and they’ll want to do better.