Pathways' Charity Fast

Charity Fast gets a hug from her niece, Ariela Wiles, after graduating from Golden West College with honors. Fast is now attending Cal State Long Beach.

“Before entering Pathways, I had zero high school education. I was a product of physical, mental, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect… I was a hopeless, helpless wreck.”

Charity Fast said things changed when she became a Pathways client in 2016. In addition to providing tuition, tutoring, and therapy, Pathways to Independence helped her get a place to live, a driver’s license, and medical and dental care. Now enrolled at Cal State Long Beach, Fast is studying to be a social worker. Her goal is to be a voice for the voiceless.

“This is an amazing program,” Lisa Mais, Pathways’ fund developer, said. “It’s one of the few that looks at the total person and addresses every need.”

Mais said Pathways to Independence spends approximately $120,000 on each of its clients and has an annual budget of $1.4 million. Last year, Pathways’ annual fundraiser generated about $750,000. The organization is hoping to raise the same amount this year, despite having to shift from a physical gathering to an online format.

On Oct. 2, Pathways for Independence will present a free virtual benefit concert and fundraiser featuring California native and country artist Brett Young. The evening will be hosted by actor and model Justice Joslin and former ABC journalist and Spokesperson for the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Afaf Konja.

Skilled writers, filmmakers, composers, and camera operators have been assembled for the event. Producer Art Arellanes, whose experience includes industry awards shows, halftime programs, and 20 years with MTV, is excited about an evening designed to inspire, entertain, and enlighten people.

“We have assembled a dynamic group of dedicated professionals,” Arellanes said. “Together, we will deliver an evening of beautiful performances and celebrate the incredible work Pathways is doing.”

This will be Pathways’ first livestream fundraiser; COVID-19 has forced the organization to find an alternative to its annual, in-person party. The pandemic has also impacted Pathways’ clients.

“A lot of turmoil has been created,” Executive Director Goretty Ramos said. “Our clients have been hit pretty hard. Some have lost employment, some have struggled with class format changes, and some have suffered from emotional disconnects. But, fortunately, our mentors really surrounded them with support. Everyone has adjusted the best they can.”

Since 1991, Pathways to Independence has assisted young women who are living at or below the poverty level but have a sincere desire to be financially and socially self-sufficient through education and therapy. The comprehensive program has changed the lives of more than 300 women. Approximately 80% of Pathways clients graduate from college. There are currently 42 women enrolled in Pathways to Independence.

“This program has completely changed the trajectory of my life,” Fast said. “Words could not describe how blessed I feel that I was given such a tremendous opportunity to change my life!”

“We are the best kept secret in the area,” Ramos said. “But we don’t want to be a secret. Lisa and the FOP (Friends of Pathways) are doing a great job getting people excited about this event. We hope the community will reach out and participate, either by donating or by helping as a volunteer or a mentor.”

The Pathways to Independence livestream concert is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. To register, go to www.pathwaysgives.com.

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