Kayla Morales works for the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland as a Community Development Specialist on the Workforce Development team. She was hired by the agency in 2016, it’s her first official job and one she’s kept the longest. If you look at her life today, she’s thriving: she’s started a podcast and is preparing to do a Vlog series called “Finding Me,” in which she motivates people by sharing her experiences to inspire others.

But life wasn’t always like this for Morales; in fact, there was a time when she didn’t know if she would live.

This is her story.

Morales was born in Albany, New York but was raised in Cleveland where she attended East High School. After graduating. she attended Full Sail University to study music production. “I love to sing; I’ve been singing since I was young,” said Morales. “Music is almost therapeutic for me and it’s helped me get through many different seasons in my life.” Unfortunately, Morales was forced to leave school early due to her mother becoming sick with ovarian cancer.

Morales pictured (left) with her brother, (back left), Father (back right) and Mother.

“It was a difficult time for my whole family, but family is important to me, so it wasn’t a second thought to put my life on hold to help my mother,” said Morales. “I figured I’d finish up somehow.”

Everything changed when Morales found CEOGC. A family friend shared information about the workforce program and it piqued the interest of Morales. “I was looking for a job and an opportunity to advance my education; this literally just dropped in my lap,” she said.

Morales signed up for the customer service program and worked tirelessly in hopes to achieve her goals.

“I remember coming and feeling like it was going to be a major challenge, and it was, but ultimately I succeeded,” she said.

And succeed she did. Morales finished as an exemplary student, passing with high scores and receiving her IC3 certification. From there, she was offered a position by CEOGC directly after graduation, something she didn’t expect but saw as a timely blessing.

“I felt so much peace when they offered me the position. I am a people person so this job definitely brings out my strengths,” said Morales.

Unfortunately, Morales wouldn’t know what was to come in the near future. She would undergo multiple surgeries due to health complications, including four pacemaker surgeries. “At one point I thought I was going to die,” she said. “My heart was only working at 30% and my arteries were leaking. If I survived, I knew I would have to change my habits.” She recovered and her work ethic helped her to lose 130lbs and counting. “It’s still a journey for me, but I’m much more aware of what I’m eating and remaining active,” said Morales. “You get one life, one body; you have to take care of it and I’m doing that now.”

She overcame one setback only to be faced with another: Morales became homeless in 2018. She was forced out of her apartment and ended up temporarily staying with a friend that lived quite far from where she works downtown. Another trial to face. “My friend graciously accepted me into their home so I wouldn’t be on the street, but it was difficult because they live in Youngstown,” said Morales. “I would wake up at 3 a.m. to get ready and get out of the house to miss the traffic, just to make it to work by 6 a.m.”

Morales also did her best to make sure she kept her situation private; none of her coworkers knew what she was experiencing because she came to work with the same smile every day. It only took a month before she was able to find a new place. “It was hard; I really didn’t want people to know what I was going through, so I did my job and I did it well,” she said.

For Morales, all of the things she’s experienced in her life have helped her become the woman she is today. She’s a fighter, triumphant and determined to be everything she’s ever dreamed of.

“You know, I choose to have a fighter’s mentality,” said Morales. “None of the things I battled defeated me. It gave me a stronger grind and work ethic. I have a new perspective on life and I don’t take it for granted. Every day is a gift and I choose to speak positivity no matter what. If you stay focused on your goals, dreams, and purpose, you’ll undoubtedly come out on top.”

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