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Student Story

Where Are They Now: Rachelle’s Story

Rachelle used to think she had no life options. A bright future seemed like a fantasy. She had been trained not to believe in herself and fell victim to that false thought.

But today, full of hope and brimming with confidence, Rachelle can hardly manage the wealth of opportunity in front of her.

“Things are completely different to when I walked through the doors at Goodwill,” said Rachelle, who began working with Goodwill’s Whatcom County Job Training & Education Center (JTEC) staff in 2018. “Things are so much brighter than I could have ever dreamed, and I just learned how capable I am even though I really believed and was told that I wasn’t. Goodwill showed me this whole different side of me. ”
Rachelle arrived at Goodwill after leaving a horrendous situation. She grew up in a struggling family, dropped out of high school, and got involved in a relationship that led to Rachelle being a victim of human trafficking. The trafficking, Rachelle said, was particularly damaging to her self-esteem. She no longer believed in herself.

Rachelle ended up at Engedi Refuge Ministries in Lynden, Washington once she was freed from her abuser. The organization provides safety and restoration for women who have experienced sexual exploitation or trafficking. From Engedi Refuge Ministries, Rachelle connected with Goodwill’s Whatcom County JTEC.

“Before Goodwill helped me out, I literally thought I was too stupid to get my GED,” said Rachelle, referring to the brainwashing she had previously faced. “I kind of had no hope that I would ever get it. It was a huge barrier that Goodwill helped me get through.”

Goodwill’s Job Training and Education (JTE) staff embraced Rachelle the moment she entered the center and provided the encouragement and support she needed to start believing in herself again. Rachelle took Goodwill’s GED program and flourished.

“There were a lot of times I walked out of that Goodwill, and I was just crying because I was overwhelmed that I was doing something I had dreamed about for years,” Rachelle said. “It was amazing.”

In spring 2019, Rachelle passed her final exam and earned her GED. The achievement made Rachelle realize she could accomplish so much more than she thought was possible. And she didn’t stop there.

“Goodwill is the only reason I enrolled in college,” said Rachelle, laughing.

Rachelle explained that the PTSD she suffers from is a barrier to completing overwhelming tasks. Applying for college felt that way, but Goodwill worked side-by-side with her to fill out the paperwork she needed to enroll.

Rachelle has been studying at Whatcom Community College (WCC) for a year and a half. She’s made the Dean’s List each quarter, has straight As with one A-, and is most interested in philosophy. In addition, to help with college enrollment, Goodwill provided Rachelle a desktop computer for school and Goodwill gift cards so she could buy job interview clothing.

Rachelle works two-part time jobs, goes to school full-time, volunteers at WCC’s writing center, and is a passionate advocate for women who’ve suffered from human trafficking. With her GED, newfound confidence, and seemingly endless opportunity, Rachelle’s future is brighter than ever.

“I was in college for three quarters when the trafficking (legal) case went to trial,” Rachelle explained, “and I feel like going to college and the help with self-esteem from Goodwill and realizing how capable I was really crucial in being able to complete the case. I feel like all the growth from college, Goodwill, and getting my GED helped me be strong enough to testify at the trial.”

“Since leaving Goodwill and being in college and everything, now there is so much I could potentially do. It’s just amazing. I have so much hope. It’s more than I could ever dream of. Now the hard part is what direction do I go? It’s a good problem, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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