December 9, 2022

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Catholic Charities’ financial fitness program impacts lives

David Bethuram

Ever since Adrianna was a little girl, she wanted to be a nurse. After all, it’s a natural fit for her—she’s that type of loving, caring and selfless person who regularly puts others’ needs before her own.

But like many dreams, there is often a long, challenging journey in the way. For Adrianna, it was a road on which she never thought she would get to the end.

Rewind to five years ago: Adrianna thought she was doing everything right, but she was still nowhere close to answering the question that continually went through her head: “How am I going to be able to afford and complete nursing school?”

She had completed a year and a half of general education credits at a community college, thanks to scholarships. Her employer at the time even gave her the flexibility she needed to attend classes, but the scholarships ran out too quickly.

Even then, Adrianna fought on. She and her boyfriend found out she was pregnant. She connected with Catholic Charities to find support and decided to parent her child. When her daughter arrived, Adrianna applied for food stamps and Medicaid with the help of her Catholic Charities’ case worker to try to ease the burden.

But when her daughter was 6 months old, something clicked for Adrianna, and her drive to become a nurse burned more.

She recognized that that even though she didn’t know how to balance school, care for her daughter, and still manage life and work, she was determined to go back to school. Now was the time for her to give her daughter the best life she could.

One day while she was in the Catholic Charities’ office, she saw a poster about financial fitness. She thought that she could always get better with money and figured she had nothing to lose.

Adrianna called the number on the poster and enrolled in the classes. She and her daughter’s father decided to attend the classes together. The classes provided them the opportunity to review their monthly expenses. They were taught how to use a spreadsheet to assess expenses and opportunities for savings. Once they had a better picture of their spending and savings, they were given guidance on how to better handle their money given their situation.

Adrianna said she came to the realization that they were basically “super broke.” She said they were taught how to track their expenses and learn what they could do without.

Nursing school—her dream—was becoming a reality.

Adrianna says that without the help of Catholic Charities her dream of going to school wouldn’t have happened.

The challenges that Adrianna faced are the same as many others. The difference is she persevered. She’s resilient and tenacious. She did the work.

Adrianna graduated from the nursing program this year without the detrimental weight of student loans. She’s now a registered nurse at a hospital. She is also at the point where she can balance working, being a mother and owning a home. But that hasn’t stopped her from tracking her expenses on the spreadsheet.

“While I make more money now, I still need to be smarter about how I spend it,” she says. “That’s an invaluable lesson I would not have gained without the support of Catholic Charities.”

Part of her money will be used to make renovations to her home, and maybe soon, to purchase a larger single-family home where her daughter will be able to stay close to her current school district through graduation.

“Mine and my daughter’s life will forever be different now,” Adrianna says about working with Catholic Charities. “If a donor ever wonders if their contribution makes a difference, let me assure you, it certainly does.”

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at †

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