Dreaming Big & Working Hard: Kesara’s Story

By LIFT on March 14, 2017

Categories: Financial Strength, Our Work, Real Stories

Kesara Brewster knows exactly what her dream home looks like.

It has four bedrooms, a walk-in closet, a state-of-the-art kitchen (for baking), at least two bathrooms, a big basement playroom and a deck overlooking an enclosed yard so she can watch her children play.

The 35-year-old mom of five is part of LIFT-DC’s financial coaching program and meets with her coach Tony once a week. And right now, Kesara’s sole focus is about how she can make that dream home a reality.

But it’s not going to be easy. That’s because in addition to a degree in visual apparel merchandising with a concentration in digital media, Kesara also earned $68,000 in student loan debt while attending Albright College, a private, co-educational, liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania.

“I wanted to be a jingle writer on the Jamie Foxx show,” she shared, explaining she’d also worked in graphic, web and fashion design before having her first child.

But she found it was just too much with a baby. And after an eight-year break from living her big career dreams, Kesara is ready to adjust her expectations, explore her options and do what she needs to do to get her children into a home sweet home.

It’s not that she didn’t keep busy though. Over the years while Kesara was having her children, who range from three months to eight-years-old, she didn’t simply sit idly by. Kesara managed to earn a number of professional credentials, from medical assistant to bartender (how she earns her living currently) to financial educator.

“People get stuck, I try to keep my options open so I can see what I like,” she explained. “Every time I got pregnant and I couldn’t work, I would take another certification or class.”

That’s because not only is Kesara motivated, she’s resilient. And patient, she says, as she jokes about having to be to “raise five kids by myself.”

“I can make any situation work,” Kesara said proudly.

And that’s part of why she came to LIFT. For a second time.

While her younger children are enrolled at Bright Beginnings, one of LIFT-DC’s early education partners, Kesara works with their parent resource staff, who directed her to LIFT-DC’s new coaching program. But she’d been here before, after her first child was born.

“When he started at daycare at Bright Beginnings, they said there are other businesses who can help you here at [the Perry School],” she explained. “So I knocked on every door.”

At one point Kesara said she was in every program to see what she could get some extra help with. She’s pretty sure LIFT-DC was helping her find job opportunities.

But this time, it was different. Kesara is laser-focused on homeownership. And working with her coach is helping her understand just what she needs – and can do – to get one step closer to that dream.

“I’m tired of paying rent to a home that I can’t change to what I want it to look like,” she explained.

Despite having good credit (which she shares proudly) – and $13,000 in savings (a number she’ll add to once she gets her next tax refund) – with her debt-to-income ratio higher than most thanks to the student loan debt, Kesara wants to figure out how qualify for a mortgage loan.

“When I first started meeting with Tony, I thought these loans are never going to get paid off,” she said. “At first I just wanted to get a higher paying job. Now I see I have other options.”

Options Tony helps Kesara navigate.

“Being a mom, I don’t have time to do anything,” she said. “With Tony I can talk to him and ask him questions, it’s helpful.”

Kesara likes the fact that Tony can send her texts or emails about new information so she doesn’t have to wait until she comes back for her next face-to-face meeting.

The hardest part? Adjusting her expectations and timeframe. Something else Tony helps her with.

“I realize it’s a process, but I’m so used to if I want something, I’m getting it done,” she said. “LIFT helps you figure out what you want to do in a little more detail, and then helps with those details.”

And for now it’s all those little details that help keep Kesara believing –in herself and in LIFT.