A 1x1 pixel from arttrk.
NEED HELP? Find Resources


A female presenting individual within a hallway of glass. A female presenting individual within a hallway of glass.

Meet Unathi

Why Access and Awareness Are Key


“I remember complaining because I was just trying to finish. So, adding that College Success class was just like a big, big inconvenience. And then the pandemic hits and the lockdown happens. And now everything is just falling apart. And I’m like, Okay, we don’t have rent… So, let me contact SparkPoint.”


As Unathi prepared to complete her final college classes to receive an associate degree in 2021, she was introduced to a mandatory course that became pivotal to her journey in unexpected ways. It was a student success course that not only required students to research campus resources, but apply for them as well, as part of the curriculum. It was a step that seemed inconvenient at the time but led her to contact SparkPoint™ and the United Way Bay Area (UWBA) services.


Though skeptical, her hesitation subsided through interactions with UWBA’s supportive staff and a virtual meeting with who would become her ongoing financial coach. With his help, Unathi understood and navigated her credit through their financial planning sessions, a process, she says, improved her credit score and prepared her for future financial stability.


“My financial coach Carolee Burse was very nice and welcoming. She said ‘I understand how you feel; how it can look. But we’ve been around for a long time, we’ve helped a lot of students, and we don’t only help students, we help the community. We’re here for the community.”


Like so many others impacted by the pandemic, Unathi was attempting to navigate an incredibly stressful situation full of unknowns.


“That was pretty stressful for me. There were like four of us in a two-bedroom, trying to figure out how to not spread the virus at the time. I was going to school full-time and working, and I had little ones. It was very tricky. I was concerned for my kids because I didn’t want to bring it home.”


Unathi lost her job and struggled to keep up with rent. Turning to UWBA again, she was relieved to know rent assistance was available to her—not just once, but multiple times, as she navigated the pandemic’s economic fallout while trying to maintain the savings she had worked hard to grow.


Since then, Unathi has continued her education at San Jose State University. She remained in touch with her financial coach, who became a guiding force in her life, highlighting the importance of access to such services and their long-term impact.


Unathi has also become a UWBA Ambassador, drawing from her experience to encourage others to seek assistance when needed. She explains the benefits to peers, emphasizing how these services can help to avert potential credit disasters and even provide vital information, like understanding voting measures.


“I’m going to vote for the first time this year… So having someone who can interpret it and make it easier for us to understand in bite size. That’s very important to me.”


Today Unathi embraces the role of giving back to a community that has generously supported her. She has since completed a bachelor’s degree and envisions herself as more than a beneficiary, but as a participant in a movement of positive change, ensuring that people are aware of the resources available to them.


“I feel like SparkPoint has helped me so much. But the biggest part of it is to make sure that people know about [the program] and be a part of change and not just watch from a distance.”


View More Stories