“I intend to retire from UCAN” – Prestina Singleton
Former UCAN clients like Prestina don’t mince words regarding their feelings about the organization. With unprecedented numbers of clients returning after emancipation to volunteer, support and even find employment at UCAN, we asked some of our best and brightest why the UCAN family is so tight-knit and why alumni demonstrate loyalty to the cause.
Prestina Singleton was born on the West Side of Chicago and at age 11 became a ward of the state. After experiencing the trauma and isolation of being separated from her family, Prestina was introduced to UCAN.
Prestina, then 18, was having difficulty providing for her two daughters. With the dreams of a more fruitful life for her family, she tried to carve out time to study for the GED. Realizing she needed help, Prestina sought the aid of UCAN to find a stable environment and direction for her future.
Within the Independent Living Arrangement (ILA), Prestina worked to learn basic life skills, such as how to properly clean a house and create a budget, to learning her rights as a tenant and how to select an insurance program. “UCAN taught me everything I know about parenting, housing and what I needed to survive in my day to day life,” she says.
Prestina always knew she would pay it forward one day and is now a proud UCAN employee working as a Child & Family Specialist in the Transitional Teen Services (TTS) program. Pushing for education and mentorship to break the cycles of abuse has been her passion, and it is her ultimate goal to prevent UCAN clients from seeing their children become wards of the state.
Rheba Misters grew up as one of 11 siblings on Chicago’s West Side. After several years of living in foster care, a family member sought to become licensed as the primary guardian for Rheba and her siblings. UCAN’s support through this difficult process made a lasting impression on Rheba
When she turned 18, Rheba joined the Independent Living Arrangement (ILA) program and was a part of Project Hope’s therapy group at UCAN. It was in this small group that Rheba felt free to share her difficult life events and listen to other foster care youth who could identify with her.
Rheba developed such a profound sense of family at UCAN that it became her mission to expand its influence once she was emancipated. After gaining some professional footing as an intern, Rheba served as a location monitor, assisting with cases of clients who had run away and persuading them to return.
There is hardly a program at UCAN that has not been touched by Rheba’s exceptional efforts. She is currently working as a youth development specialist in the Counseling and Youth Development Department, but also leads the Phenomenal Women program, Hands Without Guns program and plays a significant role in assisting with UCAN’s Youth Advisory Board. She feels lucky knowing that “the kids are able to open up and be who they are because they know Miss Rheba understands what they’ve gone through.”
She adds, “I appreciate the wonderful opportunities UCAN has brought to me and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”