Sharon Cox was a business teacher at an El Paso-area high school when she noticed a disturbing problem. The teens’ parents, many of whom were migrant workers, lived in poverty and the mothers often were in abusive relationships and didn’t possess skills to compete in the job market.
So, after moving to Fort Worth, Cox launched The Ladder Alliance in 2002. The nonprofit teaches women victims of domestic violence and low-income women marketable job skills. Students attend 32 two-hour sessions in basic computer skills, including keyboarding, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Internet functionality.
In addition, the women receive child care and meals on class days. They also shop for business attire in Ladder Alliance’s Success Store, using “money” they earn with their class attendance.
“Many of these women have never even touched computers …,” Cox says. “We teach the ladies that they are empowered; we even have motivational segments at the beginning of every class because many of them have been told that they are no good and they’ve been controlled for long periods of time in their relationships.”
Ladder Alliance works with the domestic abuse shelter SafeHaven of Tarrant County, as well as many other area organizations, to find the women. The nonprofit has served more than 800 women to date and grown from an all-volunteer staff to an organization with three full-time employees, several part-timers and 50 volunteers.
It’s still growing. A recent grant pays for two part-time instructors to teach offsite at Opening Doors for Women in Need to serve women in the Como area as well as at Catholic Charities.
“We could probably train 65-70 people all at one time right now,” Cox says.
Ladder Alliance also tries to help its students find jobs. The nonprofit piloted a project with Medical Clinics of North Texas this year to prepare recent graduates for careers in health care. Nine students were chosen to attend classes designed and conducted by MCNT professionals. The classes included information about managed care, health care customer service and human resources, and two of those students work for MCNT now.
Kendal Lake, board president and nominator, says that Cox believes in the potential of all Texas women.
“She has compassion and respect for the women in Texas that most people would like to ignore or brush aside,” Lake says in her nomination. “She believes that these women can be empowered to become self-sufficient and self-reliant, giving them the ability to provide for themselves and their families.”
– Stephanie Patrick