Leading by Example: Humu’s Story

By LIFT on January 5, 2017

Categories: Our Work, Real Stories

When LIFT launched on the South Side of Chicago in May, Humu Itsifu was the first parent at Educare to hear about it.

She was also the first to sign up for LIFT’s inaugural session with its Windy City early childhood partner organization.

Seven months later, the single mother of 20-month-old Sameea continues to lead the way.

Humu is often the first one to arrive for LIFT peer group meetings. And more often than not the millennial – who constantly communicates with our staff via text and email – can be found sitting at the computer in Educare’s Parent Center…applying for jobs, emailing her academic advisor or printing coupons for Pampers.

That’s because at 23, Humu is not only connected but strong, fierce and determined.

She currently works two part-time jobs: as a Chicago Public Schools lunchroom and recess monitor and as a tutor/mentor for 5-to-18-year-old youth. Her real goal though, is to earn her bachelor’s degree and find a career in social work so she can help more people. And that’s not just lip service.

Already the proud recipient of an associate’s degree, Humu is currently enrolled at Chicago State University. In fact, this summer her LIFT advocate helped her find scholarship opportunities to help make those classes possible.

And even though money is tight, with our help and her hutzpah, she’s doing more than just going to classes. She’s begun putting $2 a pay check into a savings account and $2 into a college savings account for baby Sameea. Like many of our parents, Humu realizes education – for herself and for her daughter – can be the key that changes their lives.

And as a resident of Section 8 housing in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, where gun violence is a daily occurrence, she won’t let anything stand in her way.

Like last fall, when the state of Illinois mixed up Humu’s child care paperwork and she lost her extended hour child care assistance. Which meant she couldn’t go to her second job or attend classes.

Tenacious and determined to figure something out, Humu was able to convince her employer to let her bring Sameea to her tutor/mentor sessions, and was also able to make accommodations with her professor for missing her evening class.

But those stop gaps didn’t last long, because Humu (and our LIFT staff) soon saw the real power of connecting parents to each other. During a peer group meeting, Humu shared her struggles. One of the parents had been through the same situation and knew exactly how to solve it. She worked with Humu to fix the error in the system and Humu’s full-time child care was reinstated.

It’s no wonder then that Humu is such a fan of the LIFT approach.

“I want [parents] to know that we need this program because it can change and save so many lives. It can help your life so you can help someone else’s life,” she shared.

Spoken like a true leader.