“If I Can, You Can”

CITC’s Navigators recall their first time accessing CITC services—and how their own experience helps them serve our people

Navigator Terri Fitka assists a visitor to the Welcome Center at CITC.

In 2009, when Sylvia Alvarado relocated to Anchorage from Juneau with a job transfer, the first place she came was CITC.

“I literally got off the ferry and came straight here. I did not know Anchorage. Moving from a small town was shocking for me and my kids—we didn’t know the roads, didn’t have a phone with GPS,” she recalled. “I was so relieved with CITC helping me.”

Navigator Sylvia Alvarado uses her experience as a CITC participant to help others looking to access CITC services.

Today, from her post just inside CITC’s main entrance, Sylvia greets other people coming to the Nat’uh Service Center looking for a little relief. As a Navigator with CITC’s Welcome Center, Sylvia gets to use her own experience to help others connect to the support they’re looking for.

She knows firsthand how daunting it can be to navigate through all that CITC offers. Application processes are sometimes confusing, and knowing what’s needed to confirm eligibility for services can be frustrating when you’re doing it on your own.

With CITC’s Navigators, no one has to be on their own. Sylvia acts as a guide and a translator, ensuring that new CITC program participants have the help they need and understand how to apply for an receive services. When she first came to CITC, Sylvia participated in the Career Ready program, a workforce development program that pays for individuals to gain on-the-job training.

“Knowing from experience what applicants need to provide for program eligibility, I can really help the process not take as long for them,” she said. “I love providing additional resources, too, because CITC connected me with other places where I received help. I worked through Career Ready at Cook Inlet Housing Authority, which has the Cook Inlet Lending Center, which helped me move into my own house.”

“Gaining employment with life experience can be a compelling asset, as it provides unique perspective and practical skills,” said Navigation Manager Billy Blixt. “Having Navigators like Sylvia with participant experience has paid off in the Welcome Center making our participants more comfortable, knowing others have walked in their shoes.”

“When people come in, I can empathize with what they’re going through,” added Terri Fitka, another CITC Navigator. “I’ve been there myself, and I know how much work it is to seek out help.”

Left: Sylvia Alvarado. Right: Terri Fitka

In 2016, Terri walked through CITC’s doors needing to apply for Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). Six years later, after weathering a few disruptions in her life, she felt ready to come back to work. The first place she looked was the same place where she had found support.

“CITC didn’t have Navigators when I received services here,” she explained. “I would have benefited with Navigation if I were a participant now. There’s so much we offer! Participants get overwhelmed with all this information we throw at them. But we walk them through the process.”

Sometimes, she even literally walks with people—to their CITC appointments, to the department they need to visit. As Navigators get to know an individual’s needs and goals, they help them formulate a plan, get connected with the right resources, and even refer people to other organizations for additional support.

All Navigators are experts on CITC’s cornucopia of services and on CITC’s community partners. But as former participants themselves, Sylvia and Terri have a special insight into finding those resources.

“Knowing all the opportunities and how to access them—I love to share that,” Sylvia said. “I love to tell them, ‘There’s a grant for that, here’s a program for that.’ Providing information, giving people the tools they need to succeed. I tell them, ‘If I can do it, you can do it!’”

You don’t need an appointment to find help at CITC: Walk in and meet up with a Navigator at our Welcome Center on the first floor of the Nat’uh Service Center at 3600 San Jeronimo Drive. You can also email navigation@citci.org or call (907) 793-3600 and press 1.