City of Tempe hosts regional Family Self-Sufficiency graduation celebration tonight

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The City of Tempe will be honoring 31 Family Self-Sufficiency graduates from across the Valley Friday with a ceremony celebrating their work to regain financial independence and transition off public assistance.

The city’s Human Services Department is hosting individuals and families from Tempe, Chandler, Maricopa County, Mesa and Scottsdale.  The graduates have participated in their respective Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) programs for as many as five years to increase their earnings, build savings and achieve the goal of economic security.

“Our communities are stronger because of the collective determination and perseverance of the Family Self-Sufficiency participants graduating this year,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. “We are inspired by the countless stories of success from program participants.  Some have returned to work or made a career change. Others went back to school. Still others are now homeowners.”

“Each story is unique but shares a common thread: a commitment to a new future,” he said.

The graduation ceremony in Tempe will feature performer Olivia Calderon, Tempe Police Department detention officer and “America’s Got Talent” contestant. Speakers include Tempe Councilmember Randy Keating and Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching.

Established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the FSS program has been serving families nationwide for more than 25 years. The program is open to individuals enrolled in the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program and is voluntary.

Participants set goals and plan for their future through education, career development, job training, financial literacy, asset building and homeownership counseling.

As participants increase their earnings, funds are set aside in escrow accounts to be used at graduation time for goals such as returning to school or purchasing a home.

The 31 FSS graduates being honored Friday have collectively earned nearly $400,000 in escrow funds and met a wide range of employment, education and homeownership goals.

This year alone, more than 330 families are participating in FSS programs in Tempe, Chandler, Maricopa County, Mesa and Scottsdale.  The FSS programs have new classes of graduates each year.

Tempe graduate Iman Zamzam faced so much uncertainty about her family’s future as a single mom raising two sons on a limited income. But determination and hard work helped her clear every hurdle.

Along the way, she lived by a singular mantra: “I don’t want to depend on other resources. I want to stand on my own feet.”

She earned three degrees, landed a steady job with benefits as a psychiatric nurse and began planning for homeownership. As important, she helped her sons, 21 and 16 years old, set their own paths for success as needed.

Zamzam credits Tempe’s Family Self-Sufficiency program staff for giving her the support she needed.   

“They always gave me hope,” she said. “They said, ‘Yes you can do it. You’re smart. You can do it’.”

For more information about Tempe’s FSS program, visit

Media contact: Susie Steckner, [email protected]

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