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'I dream of having my own food truck one day'

Get to Know… Connie Cohen, Youth Housing Specialist with Rochester Public Schools.

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Connie Cohen.
Contributed

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I was born and raised in Chicago.  Initially I didn't know anything about Rochester. I had an aunt who was living here at the time and a couple cousins. I was employed at the University of Chicago and every year we were laid off for the summer which made things hard. I also lived in a neighborhood that was not as safe as others. A couple weeks before we moved out of Chicago a kid was shot in front of my apartment building and I had small children. At the time, I felt there had to be someplace safer for my husband and I to raise our kids.

What do you like best about Rochester?

I don't worry about my safety here, although Rochester has changed over the years. It's still not as bad as other places. I often hear people compare Rochester to Chicago. There is no comparison. Chicago is a different ball game.

What changes do you see that need to be made in Rochester?

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There are many changes that still need to be made or addressed for that matter. Affordable housing, continued support for those who are homeless or displaced, more conversations about how we as a community can help those folks who work everyday and still can't make ends meet for various reasons. I would love to see more opportunities for  home ownership by minorities, and more family activities in Rochester.

What do you do for a living? Why did you choose that career?

I previously worked at Olmsted County for 14 years before moving into my current position as a Youth Housing Specialist with Rochester Public Schools. This position allows me to give back in a different way. I'm able to sit down with families and listen to what they are dealing with and support them by helping them with resources, applications, groceries, school supplies, and various other things. It's not just a job. I'm grateful to be able to help these families because I've been there and I know firsthand what it's like to not have housing or the basic necessities needed  to be successful. I work hard to make sure our families feel supported.

What advice would you give someone looking to pursue the same career?

I would suggest you do it because you love it. A lot of people accept jobs because of the money and they are miserable in that position. Make sure you have a heart for people and are willing to work with them, especially those who are underserved. Being supportive, nonjudgmental, and having patience and empathy is a must for this type of work.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? And your greatest challenge?

My greatest accomplishment thus far was purchasing my first home. I was so proud to go from being homeless, to being a renter, then to home ownership. Hard work pays off. My greatest challenge would have to be going from a two-parent income to one and having to care for my husband who can no longer work and fix things around the house due to some health concerns. But even in that I'm still grateful.

What's one thing people don't know about me?

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One thing people don't know about me is that I dream of having my own food truck one day so that I can not only serve good food but help families like myself who are working every day and still struggle to feed their families from time to time. One day, Creative Bites will come to fruition.

Get to know ... is a feature in Rochester In Color, a special section within the Post Bulletin's website that profiles people of color in our community. Find it at www.postbulletin.com/rochester-in-color . If you know of someone who should be featured, send us an email at news@postbulletin.com

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