Grants & Scholarships

Keys to Success program: 'a blessing and literally life-saving for us'

This Genesis Center program helps address the transportation challenges of its clients.

Editor’s note: While we often focus on our larger investments, this illustrates how a small investment can make a real difference to individuals/families. Our $5,000 grant, along with $15,000 from Pawtucket Credit Union, provided matching funds to enable 10 Rhode Island families to purchase much-needed vehicles.

“It was a blessing and literally life-saving for us,” says Samantha Gonzalez of her participation in the Keys to Success Vehicle Savings Program.

Keys to Success, one of the programs offered through the Genesis Center’s Financial Opportunity Center, helps low and moderate income Rhode Islanders save for and purchase a vehicle. Through the program, participants make regular deposits in a special savings account and receive financial coaching and training related to vehicle purchase and ownership. When participants have reached their savings goal of between $500 and $2,000, the money is matched dollar-for-dollar by contributions from the Rhode Island Foundation and Pawtucket Credit Union.

“Before we enrolled in Keys to Success, we had no savings. We knew we needed a new car as I was pregnant, and a car seat wouldn’t fit into the car we had, which later broke down. The program really pushed us and encouraged us to save,” Samantha shares.

She and her husband, Pablo, both work multiple jobs. They opened, with another couple, a restaurant in May of 2019 where Pablo works full-time and Samantha helps out. She also works as a financial aid advisor at New England Tractor Trailer Training School and the couple owns Pablo & Samantha Photography. Their son, Pablo, III, was born in October of 2018.

A graduate of Providence College with a degree in mathematics, Samantha says, “Doing the math with our budget, I knew the savings would be hard.” (Only three of the 10 participants in the program have a bachelor’s degree.)

“Basically, we didn’t eat out and we really tightened up our spending,” Pablo notes, with Samantha explaining she keeps a spreadsheet of all the family’s expenses.

The couple’s sacrifices paid off: within six months they saved $2,000 and purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle that is large enough for Pablo, III’s car seat, inventory for the restaurant, and whatever else they need to transport.

“We’re both first-generation Americans,” explains Pablo who is Guatemalan; Samantha is Cambodian. “We’re trying to build a legacy for our family. There’s a lot of opportunity in this country. We want our children to have a top-notch life, to go to college, and to live the American dream.”

Christopher Ackley, financial coach at Genesis states, “The two biggest impediments to clients getting and keeping a job are childcare and transportation. At Genesis Center, we’re addressing both of these things.” The Center annually serves more than 800 individuals in adult education and workforce development programs, as well as more than 100 children in its childcare center.

“We love Genesis,” Samantha and Pablo agree. And who do they encourage to participate in the Keys to Success program? “Everybody!”