Isaiah’s Journey with LIFT-Chicago

By Casey Kaldahl on October 31, 2019

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work, Real Stories


I first met Isaiah in July of 2018 – less than two weeks after starting at LIFT. So much of my time at LIFT has been defined by my time with Isaiah and, for that, I am so grateful. When he first came up to my table at Educare, I saw right away that Isaiah was the guy who could walk into any room and make a friend. He always has a big smile on his face and is ready to talk to anyone. He’s probably also wearing a sweatshirt or hat that he’s painted for himself. Isaiah is many things but, at his core, he’s an artist.

In his intake meeting, Isaiah mentioned wanting to learn how to sell his art. He paints canvases, shirts, hats, pins, phone cases, and, really, anything he can get his hands on. He loves to create. He had big dreams of selling at art fairs and in local coffee shops but often struggled to get enough money together to buy supplies. He would pay his bills and use whatever left over money he had to buy a can of paint or a new brush. All his art supplies went out the window, though, if his daughter, Kyla, needed anything.

Isaiah and his daughter, Kyla, are a true force to be reckoned with. A daddy-daughter duo that can rival the best of them. Being witness to their bond is one of my favorite things about being Isaiah’s coach. Every now and then, Isaiah will bring Kyla to our meeting and it is always clear that the two of them love hanging out together. In the time that I’ve known Isaiah, it’s become evident that every single decision he makes, he makes for Kyla. She is his whole world and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

As we’ve continued working together, Isaiah’s focus has shifted from monetizing his art to stabilizing his entire financial situation so that his family is secure AND his art can truly flourish. Isaiah is a barber, by trade, and when I first met him, he was working part-time at a barber shop where he never really knew how much money he was going to make as it was heavily dependent on how many clients he had that week. He loves doing hair, but he wasn’t making enough money to support his family and there was no possibility of ever earning benefits at the shop. He also had a large sum of debt that he was carrying around with little idea of where to begin the process of paying it down. Together, we had long, hard meetings where we sifted through his debt, looked at his income, and figured out how we could start chipping away at it.

When I asked Isaiah if I could share his story, I also asked if there was anything he wanted me to include, here’s what he has to say about his time at LIFT:

I was finding myself completely lost in all my thoughts and ideas. Totally disorganized at times and even being a MAJOR procrastinator. Drowning in debt and not knowing how I would pay for it. I was in a place where I saw the big picture but couldn’t really figure out how to get to that bigger picture I was trying to paint for my family and future. Then, my LIFT coach, Casey, stepped into the picture, didn’t judge me, and she helped me out to the best of her knowledge while we sat together and mapped out multiple plans of success. She showed me small steps to paint my bigger picture and I am currently still in the process of completing my goals. There is a lot of paint on my canvas now from completing some of my goals, but I still have a journey to map out. I know it’s on me to get there and LIFT helped me pave the way when I didn’t think I could. I am very, very, very happy to be a part of LIFT.”

I am beyond proud to say that a month ago, Isaiah started a part-time job in a residential building where he has the potential, in the next year, to move into a full-time position with benefits! He’s seen his income stabilize and can really start making progress on his debt. Since we started working together, he’s paid down over $1000. He continues working hard towards a better future and has dreams of putting away money for Kyla to use for further education someday. It’s an honor to be his coach and I can’t wait to see the progress he continues making as a member of the LIFT family.

About the Author

Casey Kaldahl

At LIFT-Chicago, Casey leads the outreach and recruitment of parents and families through strong partnerships with local early childhood care providers. She works to develop and expand LIFT’s recruiting strategies to enroll new parents and conducts intakes upon arrival. Day-to-day, Casey acts as a primary contact for community partners and new parents. She serves as Read More