"Before I came to The Hatlen Center I was living in Alaska. I was really unprepared for living on my own. I was pretty good with cooking and cleaning, but had no experience with managing my finances or traveling by myself. I hardly had any experience with using a computer because I was home schooled, and growing up using the computer always strained my eyes and caused me headaches.
When I first started at The Hatlen Center, I was surprised because it wasn’t exactly what I expected. Living so far away, I hadn't taken a tour before starting the program, so I didn’t really have a full understanding of what it was like. After I started, I realized, 'Wow, I’m really living on my own!' That thought made me both excited and nervous, because living independently was something I had always wanted but didn’t know if I could actually do.
The first thing I noticed about Hatlen is how nice everyone is here! All of the teachers were so friendly and made me feel immediately welcome. In my classes, I knew financial management was a subject that I had a lot to learn in. At first, it felt overwhelming because I had so much to do, like opening a bank account, getting signed up with Medi-Cal, and applying for social security benefits. But, doing all those things taught me so much and now I can do them on my own.
Orientation and mobility was another class that was challenging for me at first. I had never received training in that subject and had spent most of my life in small towns that did not have any public transportation. After one year at Hatlen, I now feel confident that I can travel anywhere by myself! I am not afraid of traveling alone anymore and I am able to plan trips to wherever I want to go and even problem solve if I get lost. I’ve traveled to a lot of different places throughout the Bay Area while at Hatlen, my favorite being the time I went to Boudin’s Clam Chowder restaurant in Union Square.
Of all the classes I took, living skills was my favorite subject! I had so much fun and made a ton of yummy food. It was while cooking with my instructor, Samir, that I learned how much I love to cook. I quickly began practicing a lot and giving the staff samples of what I made. One day in a technology lesson, I was practicing how to use Excel and we did a lesson where I figured out the cost of making a recipe and how much it would cost per serving. I realized that I could make a profit off of my passion for cooking. I began selling the things I cooked to the other staff and students to save up money so I could live independently after Hatlen.
Overall, my time at The Hatlen Center has been the best year of my life! I’ve learned so much, gained so much confidence in myself and become a much happier person."