While drugs were exchanged and bullets flew outside, Ricquia handled the cooking and cleaning.
At 10 years old, with her parents often out of the house, Ricquia was in charge of caring for her three younger sisters as they grew up on the corner of Polk and Lawndale, right here in our neighborhood.
She doesn’t hide much of her past – her abusive father, the violence in the streets, the broken system that caused her to drop out of school in 8th grade, and the economic uncertainty that came with a childhood in North Lawndale that caused her to run to Danville, IL as soon as she could.
But moving didn’t end up being the catch-all solution she was hoping for. Ricquia has a criminal record, one that began in Danville, and one that she’s still working to clear to this day.
Making a Change
She discovered NLEN through her husband, Brian, a graduate of U-Turn Permitted who now works for the organization through the READI initiative. After graduating, the leadership and empathy that she learned while caring for her sisters made her a perfect fit for Sweet Beginnings.
After only one month on the job, Ricquia is taking charge of the production facility.
“My favorite part of the job is making sure everything’s done right”, she says. This shows as she directs some new employees, who started only one month after her, on what they need to get done to meet production deadlines.
There’s an air surrounding Ricquia that exudes determination. With five children and five grandchildren, she knows the heavy responsibility she has – not only to make money to support her family, but to be a beacon of light and hope for the next two generations.
They already look up to her.
“Every morning I tell my children and grandchildren to have a pleasant day. I think that really has an effect on them, on anyone”, she says. Then she describes why she hopes to one day work with people.
Having previously been employed at a senior living facility, she knows her talents lie in caring for others.
In the meantime, Ricquia is working with NLEN’s Bridge Program on getting her GED. She’s using her experience working on the production team here to seek out more employment opportunities, the kind that only open up for a returning citizen when they are given a chance at employment through a program like Sweet Beginnings.
She’s aware of the challenges that lie ahead – the GED has been a roadblock before – but she knows that the only solution is to keep trying.
“I’m not gonna give up ‘til I get it.”