<p>Touch A Heart apprentice Leslie (left) at graduation with her fellow cohort members Curtis (middle) and Haidee (right).</p>
<p>Touch A Heart team member Leslie graduated from our foodservice internship program in November 2020 and has remained with us since—the longest of any of our apprentices. In a recent interview, she said, "Touch A Heart has impacted my life everywhere in every way."
While we're known for our vocational training and apprenticeship programs, our holistic approach includes meeting everyone where they're at and remaining a constant throughout their journeys. When asked what this has meant to her, Leslie said, "It means everything to me. Without this support and love, I wouldn't have gotten this far. In spite of what I'm going through, I'm emotionally and mentally ready because of the support that Touch A Heart gave me."
Since May 2021, Leslie has also been working at Koolau Ballrooms & Conference Center. She recalled her interview, which our executive director Robin accompanied her to, and said, "I didn't even want Koolau to hire me. I gave them every excuse in the book to not hire me. The chef said, 'I can see why Robin was so strong about you. She knew you could do it; she felt like you had more worth than you thought you did.' It's so hard to believe that when you grow up the way I did."
She likened this experience to a parent encouraging their child, and noted that this changed her perception about life. And it's for this very reason that we focus on developing self-esteem and self-worth so that those we serve can move forward with strength and confidence.
On April 10, Leslie was baptized at Kalihi Union Church. She feels happy and peaceful, and appreciates the church community's love, care and acceptance.
Her recent sentence of 70 months was significantly lower than the 168-month maximum due in part to her transformation these last two years with us.
"Touch A Heart changed my heart; they made me realize that there are people out there who love and care about me," Leslie said. "Touch A Heart is the foundation of my success and new beginnings."</p>