By Abigail Schoenecker Being a full-time student is hard. Being a full-time student with a job is even harder. Try being a full-time student with a job, four kids and other social obligations. That’s what Shannon RedBrook has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, she has support from the Community Action Duluth’s Circle of Support program and from her school.
“Having a circle is another support system outside of school that can help me,” RedBrook said.
When RedBrook moved up to Duluth in 2005, she and her family were homeless. She eventually got connected to Loaves & Fishes, a housing program in the Endion neighborhood. She struggled for a year to find a house. In 2006, she not only found a home, but also found a support group to help create and realize her goals.
While staying at one of the houses through Loaves & Fishes, she picked up a pamphlet that led her to Circles of Support. RedBrook was the center of her circle with three allies. One of the allies she was matched with was Kris Cook.
Cook found out about Circles of Support through her work with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She referred people in need of help to Circles of Support and when she saw what a great program it was, she decided to volunteer her time and become an ally.
For 18 months, RedBrook worked with Cook and two other allies to achieve her goals: finish school, deal with her tax issues and to find and move into a new home. Unexpected issues arose when her father passed away in 2007 and she turned to her circle for support and guidance through her difficult time.
After working with the allies for a year and a half, RedBrook decided that she wanted more out of the program and signed up for a Strategic Match. In this program, RedBrook and Cook spent a year doing the same work as the circle but more focused and intense. Through the Strategic Match, Cook went to parenting classes for RedBrook and helped her with other things that a working mother and full time student would need help with.
“The whole process was being there to support her,” Cook said.
Cook and RedBrook have developed a strong relationship through the Circles of Support program and over the years they have become good friends
“I’ve seen her family grow a lot,” Cook said.
She was there to help RedBrook when she had her youngest daughter, Whispers-in-the-Wind, who is now 3.
At Pucks Against Poverty, Cook and RedBrook both shared their experiences with everyone at the event while RedBrook’s youngest climbed up and down the seats in plain view of her mother.
In addition to the full-time job of being a mother, RedBrook also works at the University of Minnesota Duluth as an Assistant Scientist in the School of Medicine. One of the goals that she has been working on since starting with her circle is going to be complete when she graduates this May with her Masters in Bio Science.
“She’s really amazing,” Cook said of RedBrook’s accomplishment of going from homeless to a full time student and employee.
Her circle has been there for her through it all and Cook and RedBrook, though not obligated, still get together and are still involved in each other’s lives.