Pay it 1964WARD – From homelessness to college student

Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships goes directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union scholarship recipients. Learn how that support fulfilled their educational dreams and helped them become a force for positive change in their communities and the world at large.

Keara Wrightsman

Talbert House honors Keara Wrightsman as Employee of the Year. Left to right, James Wilson, Talbert House Vice President Housing Service Line with Keara at the Talbert House Annual Employee Appreciation Celebration.

Union psychology major Keara Vogt Wrightsman knows what it is to hit rock bottom.

“I was homeless for 10 years before I entered a treatment facility in 2014. I lived in abandoned buildings and on park benches. I lived on the street, addicted to opiates, like 23 million other Americans.”

She has come a long way. Now a student in Union’s Bachelor of Arts program, she works fulltime at Talbert House — a nonprofit that helps men, women, and children throughout Southwest Ohio overcome adversity to become healthy and productive citizens. She works with homeless veterans to find housing and employment, and assists them with Social Security claims. She also volunteers for the Affordable Housing Advocates, the Homeless Clearinghouse, and the Veterans Work Group. In 2018, she was named the Talbert House Employee of the Year for her outstanding work placing homeless veterans into housing and assisting them with employment and expedited Social Security claims.

“I am pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology in order to help treat and assess those who have been where I have and the understanding and knowledge to also help those who have been where I haven’t,” said Wrightsman. “My career goal is to be a clinical case manager and move on to my master’s degree. I hope my story is an example to others who are struggling.”

Her determination to change her outcome was recognized with another award, the Jimmy Render Award from the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, given to homeless or formerly homeless individuals who have defied the odds and subsequently committed themselves to addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

“Because of my homeless-related background, no one would hire me. Finally, Talbert House took a chance on me. My passion is to help people; especially those without a home or who are afflicted with addiction. In order to do that on all levels and to the fullest, I need to have a degree and higher education. A lot of change comes from the work groups and systematic change is needed for permanent change,” said Wrightsman.

Recently, her job paved the way for her to buy a home for her family. Keara achieved her first goal: to recover. Her second goal is to further her education to become a clinical case manager. She says, “I hope my story is an example to others who are struggling. My passion is to learn all I can, and also be involved in my community, building strategic plans to change the course of thousands of lives, just like mine.”

Union took a chance on her too by offering her a scholarship.

“This is my second time at Union. I had started in 2013 and I had to drop out. I needed a university that respects my work and life schedule. Union does that for me.”

Keara’s advice for students is to stay focused. “Don’t give up and reach out when you need help. Never give up!”

UI&U doesn’t give up on students either. Your support will fulfill students’ educational dreams and helped them become a force for positive change in their communities and the world at large.

Please donate today to the Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD campaign.