Nariza Clark is enjoying her 7-Eleven job as she works to better her skills for the future.
A chance. That’s all Narizsa Clark says she wanted. 7-Eleven gave her that chance last August, when they hired her to work at the new Jacksonville, Fla. store located at West Forsythe and Julia streets. The job is her key to a better future, and she loves every minute of it.
“I love the environment and the customers,” Clark said. “They listen to my suggestions at staff meetings. For the first time, I feel like I’m really part of a team. It means so much to me that the company chose to put their trust in me.”
7-Eleven is bringing jobs to Jacksonville and, in cases like Clark’s, changing lives. An out-of-work single mother, Clark found herself all but homeless, sleeping on the couches and floors of friends. After years of searching for work, the 23-year-old had all but given up hope of a job that would afford her and her young son an independent life.
Since joining the staff at the downtown 7-Eleven store in August, Clark believes she has turned the corner and is making plans for the future, tough to do when you have been living day to day.
Life has dealt Clark some tough breaks. She landed in a foster home in Champagne, Ill., when she was just four years old and bounced between foster care and group homes for six years when she reunited with her mother and siblings. The family moved to St. Augustine, Fla., to make a new start.
However, a heartbreaking blow struck the struggling young family three years later. Clark’s mother died in her arms after suffering a sudden brain aneurism. As her young brother and sister looked on, Clark refused to let go of her mother after emergency medical personnel arrived. As the oldest child, Clark said, “I had to grow up fast.”
An abusive uncle became the children’s new guardian, and Clark remembers moving a dresser in front of the door to keep him out of her room. For the second time in her life, she and her siblings were placed in foster care. The Department of Child Services, while trying to keep Clark and her younger brother and sister close to each other, moved them to Jacksonville from St. Augustine. They never stayed in one place very long.
“It’s hard to place teen-age kids, and even more so when there are siblings,” she said. Clark estimates she lived in more than 80 foster homes and five group homes.
With first-hand knowledge of the difficulties a transient lifestyle can have on a child, Clark dreams of a better world for her own young son, now 2. She is saving money to lease an apartment of her own, and hopes to have her own place by March.
When asked what was the most important thing she had gotten from 7-Eleven, Clark’s answer is simple. “A job,” she said. “A chance to show them what I can do, a chance to support my son, something I didn’t have growing up. I was forced to become a woman too early, but I chose to become human. I know how much I hurt, and I want a better life for him. When I was hired at 7-Eleven, it took a lot off my shoulders.”
In addition to her job at 7-Eleven, Clark is working to earn an associate’s degree to become a pharmacy technician. She also plans to begin a culinary trade program in January to gain more marketable skills.
“I can’t say enough good things about 7-Eleven,” Clark said. “They really care about you and work with you. I know it is all about the customers but if the staff isn’t happy, the customers aren’t happy. We have a happy staff. They’re like my family.”
And for Clark, that may be the most important gift of all.