Zara hasn't had an easy life by anyone's measure. Her journey from her native Africa to Minneapolis has taken some difficult turns including a divorce that left her with no husband, no English and no income to support her three young sons. 

So Zara did what she had to do to support her family. She applied for welfare, began to learn English and got job training as a child care provider and as a home health aide. To be closer to relatives, she eventually relocated to Minneapolis. Her first apartment was boisterous and dangerous for her young sons. Her job as a home health aide required her to travel around an unfamiliar city where it was easy to get lost. But one day, she and her son walked past the sign for a new housing development under construction. He pointed out that it read: "Applications accepted." The day she got the phone call that she could move in was one of the happiest of her life.

"I never had a new apartment before," Zara said. "Sometimes I still can't believe it." 

Today her two oldest sons are now on their own, while her youngest has just started at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Zara works as an aide at Mayflower Early Childhood Center located next door. She loves her coworkers, who gather for regular potluck dinners, and the young students in the Montessori learning environment. And while recalling her difficult past can still bring tears, today smiles come just as easily.