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Who is Ermina?

Ermina was born into generational poverty and raised in the “projects” of Brooklyn, New York. She spent much of her young adult life raising her two children on the Island of Puerto Rico where she experienced a “different kind of poverty.” In her quest for a better life for herself and her children, she relocated to Iowa in the Midwest, seeking the “All-American Dream,” where she came across Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. As a graduate of Getting ahead, she went on to lead and coordinate efforts in her community, co-implementing a community engagement model that brings together all socioeconomic class groups with the common goal of building relationships of mutual respect. Through her personal experience and knowledge of diversity, she offered weekly gatherings to share insight into the struggles and barriers individuals and families face when experiencing daily instabilities. She inspired and led that work for eight years.

Ermina’s credentials

Work history

  • Dental Assistant, Laboratory Assistant, Medical Billing and Records Keeping, Centro de Salud de Quebradillas, Puerto Rico
  • AmeriCorps Member, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Circles Coach and Circles Coordinator, Dubuque, Iowa

Awards and recognitions

  • 2016 United Nations International Day of Peace, Local Women Leaders Working for Peace and Justice
  • 2016 Girl Scouts of America, Wonder Woman in the Community
  • 2012 Women’s Leadership Network, Woman of Achievement for Growth and Accomplishments in Personal Life

Ermina’s aha! moment

My aha! moment occurred as an investigator in Getting Ahead in 2008. While learning about the research continuum and the causes of poverty, I was able to accept where my individual choices had contributed to my experience living in poverty, but I was also able to forgive myself for the circumstances that were outside of my control. I learned how phenomena like the cliff effect play an integral part in whether or not a person will “get ahead.” I also realized the importance of understanding how systems operate, not only to get needs met, but to navigate through them without forming a dependency on them.

Ermina’s passions

I value people and the perspectives they bring. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and learning about the various walks of life we all lead. I love being able to contribute and give back where I can, especially to individuals who struggle to get by.

Ermina’s best trainings

The best trainings I have are the ones I learn and grow from. I realize that the audience is there to learn from me, but I always walk away with new insight into something I can do better or at least differently next time.

What does Ermina do for fun?

I enjoy being creative—putting together vision boards, collages, fairy gardens, and decorating the interior of my home. I love to read and write and journal. Most of all, I appreciate the time I spend with my three children watching movies, playing board games, and visiting new places while making memories of our time together.