Partnership between ANJC and CITC helped Tina Roberson begin again
Tina Roberson can’t contain her enthusiasm when she talks about working as the Alaska Native Justice Center’s (ANJC) administrative assistant.
“When this job worked out, it was another thrilling moment. I’m getting excited about it all over again right now!” she exclaimed.
She’s got good reason to be thrilled: Through her own faith and determination — plus a helping hand from Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) — Tina completely re-made her life after finding herself at her lowest point.
“I was in a situation where I had lost everything,” she said. “No job, no car, no money. I’d always had a car before. Even learning the bus system was a challenge.”
She may have needed guidance navigating the bus system, but she didn’t need anyone to tell her where to go to get support. Tina left her old life behind on a Sunday, and first thing Monday morning, she showed up on the third floor at ANJC’s sister organization, CITC, where she knew she could sign up for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
“When I was approved for TANF, I was beyond joy,” Tina recalled. “But I knew I had to find my own income because I wasn’t willing to stay on TANF.”
She worked with a CITC job coach to find part-time work, then kept searching for something more permanent that could offer full-time hours. “But doors just weren’t opening, which was frustrating.”
Soon, she was able to afford her own car, which allowed her to pick up her two sons from school each day—and then she’d head straight to CITC to meet with her job coach or do job searches at the Alaska’s People Career Development Center. She fondly recalls one of her sons asking, “Mom, why do we always come here?” Her immediate answer: “Because they are helping me.”
“It came out before I even thought about it,” she said. “That’s a true testament to what CITC is all about.”
But during those days when she was looking for full-time work, she would often feel discouraged. Her job coach offered her more than job prospects during those moments: “There were many times she would point out positive things about me, reminding me of all the good things about myself. She helped me see that the situation I was in right then was not the final outcome. She said that when it’s the right time and place, it’ll come — and she was right.”
Tina found out about an opening in CITC’s Career Ready internship program — an administrative position with ANJC. When she was chosen for the position, it was meant to be a temporary experience that would help her build job skills. But she wasn’t about to let an opportunity pass her by.
“That was my time to prove myself, and I didn’t hesitate,” she explained. “I can’t help but show who I am and what I have to offer. I thought, I’m going to do a good job and they’re going to know it.”
Tina quickly learned to direct individuals to the legal help they needed, telling them about the monthly Pro Se (“I can do it myself”) Clinics where participants can find help filing out legal documents for divorce or custody hearings. She also directed individuals recently released from prison to ANJC’s reentry program, which offers individualized case management, employment assistance, support in finding transportation and housing, in addition to other services.
Her hard work paid off: Today, when individuals looking for legal help walk into ANJC, they are greeted not only with Tina’s knowledge and assistance, but with the kind of empathy that comes with experience.
“I’ve had to go through legal issues myself, and I know it can be intimidating,” said Tina, who found assistance at ANJC herself when she attended the organization’s Divorce Pro Se Clinic to get help with legal forms. “Being able to support the people who come to ANJC and letting them know we’ll help them every way we can — that’s super rewarding. That’s what I get out of working here.”
In addition to running ANJC’s front desk, Tina does outreach in the community, informing other organizations, Alaska Native corporations, and partners about the services ANJC provides. Now Tina has a fulfilling full-time job, a steady income, stability in her life — and in her daughter’s life.
“When I got our apartment, my daughter came in, looked around, and then said, ‘We’re home.’” Tina smiles, recalling a day that was made possible through her work at ANJC. “She gave me a big hug. She was only two, but she knew this was our place.”