Focused on Community
Meet Toya Teresa Walker of Camden, NJ. She’s currently employed as a Neighborhood Ally at Center For Family Services, and it’s a position that speaks to her passion for purpose. She loves being plugged in to the people of Camden, and giving back to the community that has given her so much. Toya’s work ethic is commendable, and she makes it seem effortless. To her, the knowledge she has gleaned, real life experiences, and ability to reach people are second nature because she knows first-hand how an open door can lead to a whole new world of opportunities.
Toya’s journey with Center For Family Services began in 2002 when her first-born entered Head Start. With two more daughters to follow, Center For Family Services preschool fueled a love of learning and a support network that helped the family to thrive. With Toya’s oldest daughter now in college, the early learning foundation and “head start” in life would prove to be a key to the family’s upward mobility.
With her daughters thriving in school, Toya worked hard to obtain her Associates Degree in Social Sciences from Camden County Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree from Rowan University.
It was an upward swing for a while until Toya, sadly, lost Arie, her second child, in 2014. Her passion and dream of working with children dwindled, but because of her relationship with Center For Family Services, Toya found the support she needed.
A connection to Promise Corps, an AmeriCorps service program at Center For Family Services, re-ignited her joy for nurturing and teaching children. As a Promise Corps member, Toya supported preschool children in all aspects of learning; precisely the therapy she needed and the stone in her next step.
Reflecting on her work in the preschool classroom, Toya shares, “It’s not just for the children—it’s an experience that should involve entire families and ultimately, communities.”
Toya was inspired and motivated by fellow AmeriCorps members, and by watching and listening, she started to see a path she needed to take for her personal and professional growth. The opportunity to be part of the Promise Neighborhood team of community ambassadors was a natural next step for Toya and ultimately led to her current role as a neighborhood ally.
“Every experience with Center for Family Services has been a stepping stone, and a wrung in the ladder that I [still] climb to find my personal success and happiness. PromiseCorps played a major role in my learning journey, and is the main contributing factor to obtaining employment as a neighborhood ally.”
When asked to reflect on her favorite part of her community outreach experience, Toya says it was going door to door; interfacing with the community and immersing herself in their targets’ lives—hearing their stories, connecting them to resources, and truly being a utility to them. ‘I gained an awareness that most people rarely experience,” she said.
When asked what she would share with a single mother who needs a human connection? An emotional Toya said, “I feel connected to you and I see you. Change is possible. I know you can’t see tomorrow or even the next day, but I was you. I was scared and needed help but didn’t know where to begin or who to ask. The Center for Family Services will help you navigate your next steps and the ones after that. They’re always there. Call, email, or walk-in and tell them your story…they’re listening.”
Ms. Walker attended Camden County College, obtaining an Associate's Degree in Social Sciences (2003). She graduated from Rowan University with a Bachelor's Degree in Child Psychology in 2013 and plans to return for a second degree in the field of Mathematics and Science for Applied Behavior Analysis in the near future. Her favorite author is Robert Frost, and in his book The Road Less Traveled he reminds Toya of this: “Two roads diverged and I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.”