“I’m proud of my story and I’ll tell anyone that will listen,” says 47-year-old Army veteran, Nicole Carthon who currently works at the Natchez Win Job Center as a Veteran Representative. Nicole served in the Army from 1989 until 1995 and was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Alcorn State University in 2015 and is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Workforce Leadership.
In 2002 at the age of 31, Nicole found out she was pregnant with her first and only child, a son, Doreyan. She moved in with her mom with the agreement that she would not work for the first year so she could care for her child. When Doreyan turned one, she started the TANF Work Program while also receiving Medicaid and SNAP/Food Stamps. In 2003, with the help of her Case Manager, now Adams County Director, Mrs. Pam Steele, and the TANF Work Program, she was able to get a job at Walmart in the Wireless department making $6 an hour. After one year, she was promoted to the Wireless Department Manager, but she was still living paycheck to paycheck.
“Living paycheck to paycheck is no way to live. After all my bills were paid, we were left sitting at home. I hated living to pay bills,” Nicole said. “I just had to do something to change my circumstances.” She wanted more for herself and Doreyan who was diagnosed with Autism in 2006/2007. Nicole told her mom, who was very supportive, that even though she dropped out of college in 1992, she would like to give college another try.
Doreyan is 15 years old now and in an all-inclusive class as a 10th grader. “He can tell you everything about the WWE,” she laughingly shares. Nicole is so proud of her son and sees the importance of helping prepare him for life after she’s gone. She has him prepare the grocery list and do the shopping with extra attention to managing money. “The system was there to help me in a time of need. It served its purpose and you move on. Food stamps are not meant to be a lifetime thing,” Nicole Carthon.