Friday, April 27, 2012

Giving back

When Rhondisa Cotton, RCIL’s program assistant in Administration, was first offered the opportunity to apply to work at RCIL, she was hesitant. She remembered, “I said, ‘no, I can’t work here, I don’t know nothing. I only got my high school diploma, my GED. You have to know something to work here.’” However, ready to confront the next hurdle, Cotton applied for the opening. “I knew this place would open up some doors for me,” she explained.

The mother of a young son and pregnant, she had come to the agency, as “a last resort. I was frustrated with all these agencies. What made RCIL different,” she added, “was that they heard me.” In particular, Cotton said she remembered the autonomy she had in deciding what services she wanted. “Miss Gail Perry sat down with me and asked me what I needed and what kind of plan I wanted. Then she said, ‘ok, now we can see how we can make this happen.’”

In the job interview a few days later, Cotton told her interviewers, “I like your agency, I like what it does. I’d like to give back.” She got the job, and started that next Monday in 2007 as a program assistant. Her responsibilities, though, Cotton said, extend far beyond the limits of her job description. “I’m all over the place. If they need me, I’m there.”

She said that sometimes, she’ll talk to consumers who come in or help out with youth programs or advocacy work. Colorful drawings plastered to the walls of her office remind her of the young friends she’s made. And around RCIL, Cotton says her bright smile is a way of saying thanks to all the other employees also working to make a difference.

Last year, she graduated with an associate’s degree in Human and Community Services and is working on her bachelor's degree. Making use of RCIL advisement and programs, Cotton bought a car several years ago and is on track to own her home in seven months. Cotton left me with her advice for potential consumers.  “Tell them that change is scary,” she urged. “It’s hard. But we know that at RCIL and we’ll help you through it.” 

- Katie J.