Inherently curious and brilliantly adventurous, Tonya has been a happy, faithful Amtrak train attendant for over seven years. Her favorite Amtrak routes to work on are those that head to California and Portland – routes with incomparable views through the Rockies and the Sierras, she adds. On these journeys, Tonya gets long layovers and has time to sightsee and adventure throughout the cities in which they stop. 


Tonya rarely chooses to work this route, however, and instead travels primarily to Texas, a much less idyllic journey. Why?  Because its travel schedule allows her to get home two days earlier to her five-year-old daughter, Kayli. And nothing, no grand trip or picturesque view, is more valuable to Tonya than the time she and Kayli spend together. It doesn’t quite matter what they are doing – from practicing the alphabet to visiting family on the weekends to taking selfies (Tonya lovingly refers to them as the “selfie-queens”), Tonya is happiest of all when she and Kayli are together.


And the more you get to know Tonya, the clearer it becomes that everything she does, she does because she wants her daughter to be happy. It is why she decided to become a homeowner in the first place. 


For years, Tonya has been frustrated with her and Kayli’s living situation. It doesn’t at all match the quality of the home she wants to provide. It is unaffordable; it is too small; and it does not provide the safe, supportive community she believes her family deserves and requires to thrive. 


Tonya is beyond ready to change this situation for herself, fully evidenced by the drive, enthusiasm, and energy she brings to each homeowner university course and required volunteer hour she completes. 


She is ready to build the space she needs to have family and friends over for dinners and barbecues. She is ready for a home that truly belongs to her and Kayli – that they can customize and design to reflect the bold, creative women they are. She is ready to have a home that is worth the hard-earned money she is investing in it.


It seems, though, that Tonya’s readiness pales in comparison to Kayli’s. 

“Well we drove past the house so she could see what it’ll look like,” says Tonya, “and I kind of wish I didn’t do it because now she asks twice a week, ‘When do we get to move in our house? When do get to move in our house?’ And I have to keep telling her, ‘Not for a while, Kayli.’”


Although move-in is still a bit away and the work can prove quite challenging, Tonya is truly relishing it all because of the new opportunities she knows are awaiting her at the end.

“It’s a new chapter for me and Kayli. I think we’re going to be very happy in our new house. And we’ll have a backyard. I never had a backyard and my daughter gets to have one.”


Kayli has big plans for their home herself. As pictured below, Kayli’s after a “rainbow” concept, and when we asked her if her mom would be on board with this, she uttered a cool, confident, “definitely.” 


Child's drawing of a home









The House that Tech Built home sponsorshipHome Sponsor

Tonya and Kayli's home is sponsored by The House that Tech Built, a volunteer initiative brand new to Chicago and exclusively for tech companies.






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