Coming to Utah
Darlene is a transplant from Ohio, where she was born and raised. She moved to Utah after following the advice of a friend who said she should consider Salt Lake City as a good place to raise her sons. Looking to relocate from the midwest, Darlene was looking for cities where she felt she could find a job and raise her sons. At the top of her list of concerns were being able to find a job, live comfortably, and provide a safe environment for her boys. Being a single mom to young African-American sons, she worried about gangs, over-policing, and adaptability. “These are things African-Americans have to think about. There are conversation we must have with our children, especially our boys.”
After a visit to the Beehive State, a week after the end of the school year, she moved with her sons and a nephew to an apartment on 400 South in downtown Salt Lake City. She used her savings and paid three months’ rent upfront. She felt this would allow her enough time to get settled and find a job.
She left Ohio with her car packed with food, clothes, and gas money. “I had 250 dollars in cash in my pocket. It was literally all the cash I had.” That was a fact she wouldn’t reveal to her sons until years later.
Darlene drove 28 hours from Ohio to Utah, stopping only once to take a nap.“There was time when I didn’t think we were going to make it. The weight and miles on the car was a bit much. By the time we reached Evanston, the car could barely accelerate over 40 miles per hour going up a hill. I’d thought I would have to dump our clothes and belongings.”
The family finally made it, and the first thing Darlene did when she reached their new home was fall asleep.
Darlene had worked as a computer operator since graduating high school, and was confident she would be able to find a similar job. It was just a matter of when. As she looked for full-time work, she worked part-time in a couple of places to make ends meet. She worked at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah and as a receptionist for a local doctor. This was a time as well that Darlene will admit that she did receive food stamps. “I was the working poor. The working poor is the population that mostly receive food stamps. I was not lazy.” She was working, but she was making minimum wage at two jobs and it simply wasn’t enough money. Food stamps allowed her to buy food. She’d also continued to look for a full-time job.
It was also getting closer to the end of the three months she’d prepaid her rent. Darlene knew that if she didn’t find a full-time job soon, she and her boys would be in trouble. This was something she kept to herself.
“I remember driving home one day, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I knew I needed a full-time job. Money was running out and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the next month’s rent. I remember saying, God. You brought me out here. If this is what you wanted me to do, then you’re going to have to do something, now.”
When she got home, she had a voicemail message from Human Resources at JP Morgan Chase. Darlene ended up accepting a job with them and working there for 11 years before the Salt Lake offices were shut down. There were options at that point to move to either Delaware or Chicago, but she just couldn’t envision leaving Utah, which she now considered home.
Darlene has an Associates of Science Degree from Salt Lake Community College. Although her degree is in General Studies, her studies focused primarily on economics, a field of study she’d come to love. At SLCC she took advantage of the TRIO and credits its mentorship with helping her to stay focused on finished. Darlene transferred from SLCC to Westminster College where she continued to study economics. Eventually, however, the high cost of attending a private Liberal Arts school took a financial toll and she decided she’d had enough student loan debt. “I realized I’d probably be buried with my student loan debt.”
After taking a little time off, Darlene enrolled in Western Governor’s University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology – Management.