PATH Support Leads to Self-Sufficiency

Port Huron Career Center

This success story is a tale that takes our customer from a foreign land and home again, a tale of extreme economic struggle, and slow progress toward a better life for her family.

Mary Grace Pellerito Fernandez was born to two Italian immigrants who owned a bakery in Michigan. Growing up in the United States, Mary Grace graduated from college and married a man who was from Mexico. Together they moved to a small, remote village in his homeland.

In Mexico, both Mary Grace and her husband worked as teachers. Due to low wages and a harsh economic climate, the couple found it very difficult to provide anything beyond the basics for their children. Yogurt was a luxury, at a take-home wage of just $2.50 per hour. Mary Grace described the children’s school with no electricity, no playground, no computers, only a chalkboard. Her daughter was bullied for being a stranger in the village. The family would have to wait several days or weeks for water and gasoline to be delivered by truck. Wanting life to be “less stressful” for her children, Mary Grace moved back to the U.S. Her husband, however, was not able to return with her.

Returning to the United States with her children, no husband, no transportation, no income, and a teaching certificate that was no longer valid in the United States, Mary Grace came to PATH.

At first, she was embarrassed to let anyone know about her situation but soon realized that PATH had support services in place to help her. “I was lost,” she remembered, “and the PATH program gave me hope. I didn’t feel so alone.” Within three days of participating in PATH, she received assistance for a Michigan Department of Education Educator License. This license opened opportunities to substitute teach. Fluent in English, Spanish, and some Italian, Mary Grace soon was hired as a teacher with a bilingual Montessori school.

With full-time employment, Mary Grace received PATH assistance towards the purchase of a car. “I can’t even tell you how awesome this program is.” Ms. Pellerito Fernandez praised, “You helped me with my résumé and a car! I was shocked at all the stuff that was offered!”

It is hard not to feel deeply moved when this customer, who has been through so much, continues to commend the program and PATH staff by saying, “You really make a difference. A huge impact! You’ve all been a blessing and I will tell everyone.”

Submitted by Cathy Sarver