Paving Her Own Way - Xander's Story

“I have all these ideas running around in my head but trying to verbalize them is daunting. My brain is [like] a 1920’s style newspaper machine- you can’t read anything until it stops.”

Xander may seem like a person of few words upon meeting her, but once you hit upon the right subject she lights up. She’s fascinated by politics, horticulture, and apothecary. Her dream is to incorporate all three into her own business, providing a space filled with plants, books, natural herbs, and remedies. She also has a passion for books and is a fan of all things “Lord of the Rings.”

Xander is constantly finding new ways to push herself out of her comfort zone. In some ways it’s a necessity, as she lives with agoraphobia (a fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness or embarrassment). Though it can be a challenge Xander finds creative ways to work around it, often arriving early to work, appointments, and meetings to scope out a new place.

Before learning about New Door Ventures, Xander worked in an unstructured environment without a clear work schedule- a perfect pathway to anxiety. While this situation may have caused some people with her condition to retreat, it motivated Xander to find a new job more conducive to her needs. She decided to attend an information session about New Door’s employment program after hearing about it through a friend.

“That’s her character,” says Emma, Xander’s case manager. “She bounces right back… she takes time to heal and gets back to work. She is very unique… not afraid to be different.”

Xander was placed in an internship at a local forestry organization. Their mission is to promote a larger and healthier urban forest in the Bay Area through community tree planting, education and advocacy. Xander worked side by side with an arborist and learned how to prune, plant and map trees. She successfully dealt with her agoraphobia by taking routine walks to and from work.

“I was able to clear my head and put things into perspective,” she says. “It really helped me.”

She felt at ease in her internship, she appreciated the friendliness of the team and their dedication to their work. She plans to continue to volunteer with the organization.

When starting at New Door, Xander set clear goals for herself. She wanted to strengthen her communication skills, feel comfortable and confident talking to others, and earn enough money to support herself independently. She was able to accomplish all her goals, and graduate from the program with a five-star review, one of the first in the program to do so.

Emma and others around noticed her efforts. “She shared her opinions and ideas in workshops, and often challenged convention,” Emma recalls.

Xander is active in her community and holds a role in the Youth Policy and Advisory Committee, a group working to help end youth homelessness in San Francisco. She’s also working on a grant proposal to disassemble discriminatory laws against homeless people, and helps manage the groups social media accounts while continuing her education at City College.

Xander is a force to be reckoned with, ready to take on any obstacle life may hurl her way. She is steady in her beliefs and has a platform of knowledge and awareness beneath her. While others simply walk the road, Xander paves her own.