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In a rough year, Nashville woman goes from living at rescue mission to working for Vanderbilt

“Although it’s been such a hard year for everybody, it’s been a blessing for me,” said Jessica Lowery as she reflected on how far she has come in the last two years.

Lowery is now a Medical Assistant at Vanderbilt, but getting on that career wasn’t easy.

In 2018, Lowery had hit rock bottom and entered a program to live at the Nashville Rescue Mission. After moving into transitional housing with the mission and really wanting to change her life, she found UpRise Nashville.

“I didn’t see my way out for so long. I was kind of stuck in a rut,” said Lowery.

UpRise is a career development program, started in 2017, for unemployed and underemployed people in the community. The participants are called leaders because they’re learning to lead and leading their own change, says Executive Director Carole Peterson, “and that’s really what it’s about, is equipping people to get to a place of stability and thriving where they can really contribute to our community in a meaningful way.”

When Lowery started with UpRise in March 2019, she wanted to find a way to get back into the medical field after studying radiology, but not finishing. “I only had like six more months to finish in my radiology tech degree, and so that was a dream of mine.” That’s when she signed up for EdgeMED classes as well so she could become a medical assistant.

She finished that program last December and graduated from UpRise in January of this year.

“I put in many, many, many resumes and went on several interviews. To land a job at Vanderbilt was a dream come true for me because I never thought that I would be there. I never thought that I would be given the opportunity to work at such a place,” said Lowery.

Starting in the middle of a pandemic, she still lived at the rescue mission and took the bus back and forth. Continuing to overcome her obstacles, she made enough money to get a car. As of September, she moved out of the mission and into her own apartment. Lowery said, “I’ve come so far, and I’m just going to continue to move forward and continue to strive for better. And we’ll see where it goes.”

Though she knows people are struggling during the pandemic, she hopes she can now help others, especially at the hospital, paying it forward for the help that was given to her.

“She worked for it. She worked so hard, and she brings so much to the table,” said Peterson.

The Executive Director of UpRise also said interest in their program had increased more than 200% over this time last year. Over the last three years, she said they had helped more than 100 people. The program is also looking for more participants now for their next class starting in February 2021.