By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4) — The alumni of Warren Village in Denver are working hard to help one another navigate challenges thrown their way. Especially as the pandemic, has created more obstacles this year than expected.

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Warren Village is an organization that focuses on helping low-income, single-parent families make the journey from poverty to self-sufficiency. Jasmine moved there in 2015.

“I had nothing else to lose,” she explained. “I flew to Colorado with two suitcases, $200, and my two daughters, and it was history from there.”

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Years later, Jasmine graduated the program, becoming a success story. But for many, transitioning away from the structured program can bring new challenges.

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“You have a learning center on site, you have a coach a social worker on site, you have all the amenities built into the building,” explained Ethan Hemming, Warren Village President & CEO. “And then you leave, and then you reach a cliff.”

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That’s where the Warren Village Alumni Engagement Network team steps in. Three alumni resource navigators work to support fellow alumni with finding scholarships and resources for rent support and job opportunities among other things.

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Kelly, a graduate of Warren Village who is now in college on scholarship, is one of those alumni navigators.

“It can be hard sometimes to admit that you need help after leaving Warren Village because you think ‘oh I’ve reached this place where I’m self-sufficient, and I should be able to do this on my own,’” Kelly explained. “So to be able to go to somebody who is a peer can sometimes be a lot less intimidating.”

This year, the pandemic has made things more difficult. Not only are alumni navigating new lives, but a recent study shows around 73% of people had housing, education or employment affected by COVID-19. That’s making the alumni support even more important.

“The encouragement, the push and the motivation that our peers give us… a lot of people don’t realize how important those things are,” Jasmine said. “I was in school, it was so many times, I was like, ‘I’m over it, Kelly. I’m not going to finish. I can’t do this.’ And she was like, ‘No, you are going to finish, Jasmine. This is how you’re going to do it.’”

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Makenzie O'Keefe