Building a Leader: How Lilia Reclaimed Her Life and Career
Lilia Cantero’s mother pulled her car into the parking lot of Solutions for Change. A little 8-year-old boy—Lilia’s son—hopped out of the back seat and looked inquisitively up at his mom.
It felt like they were meeting for the first time.
The boy was born when Lilia was 18, but she relapsed less than a year later and lost custody of him. Now, after years of fighting The Churn, Lilia was sober and ready to reunite with her child.
“That was the very first night I ever spent alone with my son,” Lilia said. “It was just me and this kid I felt like I didn’t even know. But reuniting with him made the new beginning I worked so hard for seem real.”
Finally, it was a spark of hope.
For most of her young adult life, Lilia watched chaos around her. Crime and danger were what she knew, and it was difficult to escape.
“All I knew was drugs, crime and toxic relationships,” Lilia said. “Everything started when I was 13 and I didn’t know how to get out.”
This unsustainable life of addiction and crime eventually landed Lilia in jail, then rehab. As she went through treatment, she thought about what to do next. She was exhausted from her old life and wanted more than anything to start fresh in a new place.
“I just wanted a change of scenery to get a new perspective,” Lilia said. “Someone at treatment suggested that I move north to Solutions for Change.”
In August 2017, Lilia enrolled in Solutions Academy and took her first steps toward a new life. She suited up, showed up and learned how to be a reliable employee. She developed parenting skills and regained custody of her son. She found her voice and a sense of self-worth that empowered her to keep working hard.
“The people at Solutions didn’t see me as a criminal,” Lilia said. “They saw me as a person with a future. No program had ever really treated me like that before, and it made me actually believe that I deserved a better life.”
Soon, Lilia graduated from Solutions Academy and was ready to take on life with her son. Life, however, had another setback up its sleeve. Lilia’s first job after Solutions terminated her due to her felonies. But despite this, Lilia now had the skills and confidence to seek a solution.
“I saw a job opening at Solutions for Change and I threw my name out there,” Lilia said. “They took a chance on me and hired me. And I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Lilia has worked several jobs across Solutions for Change in the past few years, and her leadership skills have grown along the way. Now, she is a manager of our Empowerment Coaches—developing both our Empowerment Coaches and clients into leaders.
“It’s such an honor to give back to the organization that gave so much to me,” Lilia said. “Solutions let me reclaim my life, and I want to help others do the same.”
The most fulfilling part of her work is watching families reunite, just like she did with her son. She sees people change their lives in real time and walks them through each step of regaining custody of their children, from day one of Solutions Academy to Child and Family Team meetings and everything in between.
“Solutions for Change works because we see ourselves in our clients,” Lilia said. “For the 700 days you’re here, you will be cared for and seen as valuable. And we will do everything we can to help you build yourself from the ground up. That’s what makes Solutions unique—we care.”
Today, Lilia is working with people in phase one of Solutions Academy. These are the clients who are just beginning their journey into personal development and may be a bit skeptical of Solutions.
“No matter what trauma or baggage they bring with them, I show them that I get it. I’ve been there, and if I can do this, they can do this.” Lilia said. “And that’s the coolest thing—watching them get that first spark of hope.”