standing out


Youth Voice: Stella’s Career Journey

Stella Lorraine McKinley

I originally came to Chicago humiliated and alone. I had been spit on, disowned and kicked out of my mother’s home when she found my hormones.

During this emotional journey, I needed a job to provide for myself. But, I saw firsthand how many employers were not accepting or willing to give me the same opportunity as other individuals because I was facing this thing called “blending,” having just began my Male to Female transition.

Being looked over or outright ignored when you know that you have the credentials and a commitment to a company isn’t the best feeling in the world. It’s really degrading to be judged, rejected or not even acknowledged because of your sexual identity.

During this time, I’ve leaned on the skills, connections, and resources that I found to be valuable in my career journey.

One critical connection was Thrive Chicago. Not only did they help connect me with job opportunities, but they helped update my resume, prepare me for interviews, and ultimately helped me land the job I have now. I’m still looking for an additional job, but in the meantime, I’m employed and live with a group of close friends. I’ll continue working to go further, be more adaptable, and gain respect.

In order to help young people find jobs, adults have an important responsibility to be helpful, understand our beliefs, and show courtesy to the personal details that we trust them with. They should learn by the example of Thrive Chicago. Like most young people, I never was looking for any handouts because I’m a strong, educated person who’s blessed and know how to pray for my protection from all harm and danger that comes my way. I’m healthy and as long as I have breath in me, I’m not giving up on my life or opportunities. From my experiences, there’s so much advice that I’d give to my fellow youth but my main advice would be: Stay true to yourself. Live life with an open mind. Love yourself always and tell yourself how much you do! Carry your image with respect and respect the ways of your community. Finally, remember that if you aren’t willing to do for yourself then don’t believe that someone else will! After suffering from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, I’m still getting my strength back. I’m also learning how to get back out into the world since my life was rocked and shattered from being date raped and as a result, being diagnosed HIV+. But, I’m still healthy, alive and free as ever!

Life hasn’t always been easy, but I’m not going to be a victim anymore. I’m not sure what’s in store but I’m proud to be Stella. Now it’s time to live my life with a new meaning.



The YES Project is possible thanks to the generous support of AT&T, Citi Foundation and State Farm.​​​​​​​