Meet our Achievement Award Winners

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Achievement Award Winners

Your support of PPL helped nearly 13,000 people make strides towards self-reliance in 2014. Our Achievement Awards event, held on March 26 and sponsored by Wells Fargo, honored 10 participants for their remarkable achievements, with stories of transformation driven by ambition, hope, and hard work. Below are their stories.


For Alvin, living in PPL housing is his foundation for success. The encouragement of staff has given him the structure and support he needed to make a fresh start after being released from prison. Alvin has worked with staff to plan for the future and set goals of improving his income, saving money, and ultimately buying a car. In the meantime, Alvin has shown his dedication to providing for himself.

For many months, Alvin commuted from north Minneapolis to Hopkins by bicycle, beginning at 3 a.m., through all kinds of weather. He biked home, often after overtime, happy to be working and earning a paycheck. He works hard to keep good things coming to him, and keeps perspective during lean times.

“Oatmeal beats no meal,” Alvin said.


Andrea didn’t know working at a preschool would inspire her to go to college, or that a high school would be where it all started.

Andrea came to PPL’s MERC Alternative High School to make up credits she needed to earn her diploma. Staff helped her learn how to reach her goal of graduation while she balanced school work with two part-time jobs.

One of those was as a PPL Early Wonders Preschool assistant. Andrea enjoyed the work so much that she’s enrolled in college courses with the goal of becoming a preschool teacher.

“I love MERC and Early Wonders so much,” Andrea said. “The teachers at MERC are just amazing—they helped me graduate. Early Wonders has wonderful staff too. It’s been a great journey with them!”


Belinda Nalls came to PPL frustrated. For months, her job search continually brought her interviews, but no job offers. Belinda enrolled in PPL’s Train to Work in Healthcare program with hopes to change that pattern.

“I came to PPL with only one goal in mind: get a job,” Belinda remembers.  “But I got so much more out of it.”

In the program, Belinda reviewed clerical skills and committed to learning new interview skills. Her hard work led to dramatic improvement that showed. Since completing the program, Belinda has received multiple job offers, each opening doors to new opportunities and earning potential for her family.

“PPL gave me the confidence I needed, and the ability to sell my skills to get the job I wanted.”


Brenda came to our Homework ‘n’ Hoops afterschool program because her friends told her it was helpful and it had rec time. She works with a tutor to finish homework and form relationships with other students.

Brenda has shown a dedication to her studies, completing her homework and skipping rec time to get help from her tutor to understand concepts in her assignments. She’s also formed strong bonds with other students and her tutor. Brenda loves that Homework ‘n’ Hoops has someone to help you who can then also be your friend.

“In the beginning, she was this quiet, sweet girl with a lot of homework,” Brenda’s tutor Amanda notes. “Now she’s a passionate, driven young lady who has made an impact on my life and I’m sure will make an impact in our community.”


Christina thought she knew what to expect: come in, fill out some agency paperwork, and leave. The support of PPL’s Connections to Work staff has helped her do more than she expected.

“I never thought I would be able to attend college or work,” Christina said. “Now I’m becoming the woman that I never thought I could be.”

The single mother of three is overcoming the challenges of unhealthy relationships and the anxiety they produced, to create a stable future for her family. She’s also working to help others along the way, taking college courses and interning in human service organizations.

“I enjoy giving back to the community, assisting families with some of the challenges I have overcome. It’s very rewarding.”


After struggles with chemical and mental health nearly took everything, Judi has rebuilt her life and gained hope for the future at PPL’s New Foundations Program.

“As long as I stay open and stay positive,” Judi said, “next year can be more than I ever imagined.”

Judi recently completed her Associates Degree in psychology. With hopes to be a counselor one day, she is continuing her education and began working at a treatment center. While Judi’s excited for her future, she’s also proud of the example she’s setting for her family.

“My children now have a mother with a stable job, an education and the ability to provide for them,” Judi said. “What they have seen me do, they now know they can do for themselves.”


Mai knew everything was going to be okay after coming to PPL. After a disability left her unemployed and homeless, she moved into a PPL apartment and began to work with Self-Sufficiency Program staff to create opportunities for her family.

Mai worked towards her employment goals with staff while her kids were active in Youth Development programming. She used an onsite computer lab to search for a job and study for school. Mai then found work and completed her Associates Degree.

With a dream of working someday in a healthcare setting, Mai later enrolled in PPL’s Train to Work Healthcare program. She recently graduated from the program and is now employed at a healthcare company, using PPL’s financial coaching resources to ensure her family’s long-term success as she recently moved into a new home.


Scott came to PPL’s Cabrini Partnership Program dedicated to a fresh start. He’s finding that with effort, determination, and the support of others, he can overcome his obstacles and help others in his community.

“I am amazed and inspired by the PPL program and all it has to offer the homeless person,” Scott said. “I am inspired to give my best and receive the best in my new quest called ‘Life.’”

Giving back is one of Scott’s goals. He’s a regular volunteer, finding fulfillment in clerical work at a government mental health office. Scott is also attending college classes with a goal to become a counselor and mental health professional.

“I would like to give back and help others in my community, particularly those who have faced similar struggles.”


Tamarah didn’t want the momentum to stop. She’d come through addiction, instability, and financial difficulties while raising a child alone, but started to see that her job wouldn’t turn into a career.

“The part-time, low-pay job was a start,” Tamarah said. “I was excited to find where I could finish.”

It brought her to PPL’s Train to Work in Banking program. While learning the ins and outs of working at a bank, Tamarah gained skills to present herself as a qualified job candidate. She used her resume to highlight skills she hadn’t realized were worth recognizing, and practiced interview skills to be able to emphasize them in person.

“Gone are the days where I’m considerably stuck. Now I can say I’m a proud bank employee!”


Tania had heard about our Homework ‘n’ Hoops afterschool programs from many different people: her cousin had been a tutor, two of her older sisters had been participants, and her friend’s sister had told her about it. So when Tania was in 2nd grade, she joined herself.

Over the past year, Tania’s grown from a quiet, reserved student into a confident, inclusive leader. She often looks for ways to further her academic growth and chooses challenging books to make sure she keeps learning and growing as a reader. Tania also encourages her friends to stay focused during academic and reading time, organizing games for her friends and their mentors, and building positive relationships with each of her friends’ mentors, as well as her own.


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