When Dawn Walls came to Women, Work and Community in 2010, she was going through a divorce. Her children were grown and gone. She had struggled long term with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. “I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”
At that time she just wanted to get a job. The Farmington Center was offering Financing Your Future and Dawn enrolled to reduce her debt and develop a budget that she could live with. Through this class she learned that goal setting would be instrumental to her success. “The actual process of writing out a plan with clear steps got the ideas out of my head and helped me keep track of my progress. That helped my self esteem and confidence as I saw my efforts bear fruit.”
While it didn’t take long to get a job, she quickly realized that she would need to find the right job for her or it wouldn’t last long. “I became self-supporting for the first time in my life. I was very proud of the accomplishment. It was therefore a very difficult decision to leave the job 13 months later, when it began to cause an exacerbation of my anxiety and depression. I continued with Career Exploration and got the reinforcement I needed to pursue the direction I felt was right for me.”
In May of 2012 Dawn completed her first full time semester as an Adventure Therapy major at Unity College with a 4.00 GPA. She had taken a Personal Fitness Trainer Course before beginning her degree program and completed the internship during spring break. She then completed an intense, full immersion, expeditionary semester in May, requiring three weeks in the field; backpacking, rock climbing, and sea kayaking. Over the summer she led four weeks of incoming student wilderness orientations and became trained as a peer support group facilitator. “I’ve had young people say to me that they want to be like me when they are my age. I stay physically active and I look at my life as an adventure. I love being able to model those kinds of values for others.”
Dawn’s road to advocacy took a fast track last fall when she joined the Ambassador’s Club at WWC.
It was during one of the group’s first activities that she first learned who her legislators were. Several months later she participated in an in-district meeting with Senator Tom Saviello with her fellow Ambassadors. “I have since made contact with my legislators and discussed important issues, such as supporting the work done at WWC.” She testified before the Appropriations Committee in opposition to the MaineCare cuts that she saw were going to be devastating to family members and others during the budget debate last spring. “In looking back at the goals I set at my first Ambassador meeting, I’m amazed to see how much I’ve accomplished. I even exceeded my own expectations when it came to some goals, going farther and sooner than I anticipated. Along the way I’ve conquered a lot of my own fears. I love being able to give back to my community.”
“My long-term goal is to be able to use my degree to facilitate a program in my community that will work with victims of violence to recover their sense of self-esteem and confidence. Through the use of stretch zone experiences (pushing past fear) I have drastically altered my own life. Knowing how powerful these experiences can be I wish to share that with others, so they may accomplish their own dreams.”