Propel Yoga

Date: June 2

Time: 6-7 pm

What: Propel, Jeremiah’s young professional group, is hosting a donation-based, one-hour yoga class. There is a suggested $10 donation that will support Jeremiah’s mission to end the cycle of poverty for single mothers, two generations at a time. Once you register, you’ll receive a link to the event!

Jeremiah Program Develops New Virtual Resources

The Future is Now

Jeremiah Program’s new virtual programming is more than a response to COVID-19. It’s an opportunity to provide services to more mothers and children, including those living in remote and rural areas. 

BY ADRIENNE VAN DER VALK

“We aren’t just treading water in this moment. We’re taking everything we’ve learned about disrupting generational poverty over the last two decades and making sure the structures we put in place equip us to support more moms and more kids quickly.” 

When Jeremiah Program president and CEO Chastity Lord wrote these words in an April 23 blog post, she wasn’t speaking rhetorically. Staff specializing in three different focus areas—child development, life-skills coaching, and virtual empowerment—have been laboring in the background for over a month, now, adapting Jeremiah Program’s signature community support and early childhood education pillars so they can continue to serve mothers and children during the pandemic and beyond. 

With Jeremiah Program staff now working from home, service providers from every campus have been meeting virtually via Zoom to design a new future—one that ensures the ability to serve more moms and kids in new communities. The programming they’re developing—and have now begun rolling out—is nimble, forward-thinking, and scalable. Scalability is important because, as Lord noted in her post, “More pockets of poverty are being created in our country than has been seen in our lifetimes.”

Implementing any kind of virtual programming relies on working devices and a stable internet connection; with this in mind, Jeremiah Program conducted a technology audit across all campuses, both residential and community-based. The audit specifically focused on having video capability so staff can see participants face-to-face—not just hear their voices. Through the support of local and national partners, JP has been able to quickly identify and fill technology gaps across all campuses, including purchasing laptops for every staff member and mother who needed one. Now, with stronger connectivity established, Jeremiah Program is taking the next step: implementing its new virtual programming initiatives.

Child Development 

Before the COVID pandemic, Jeremiah Program was already in the process of enhancing program coordination across all campus child development centers. Crystal Ward, an educational consultant who has been spearheading the implementation of this work, says the goal is to think of all Jeremiah Program early childhood centers as collaborative mini-school district. 

“We should be cascading efforts in such a way that allows increased capacity as well as increased collaboration,” Ward says. “And, so, taking all of the CDCs across the Jeremiah Program and thinking about ways in which we can share best practices and knowledge, as well as capacity, across all of our different sites to ensure all children are getting really top quality materials and guidance from their teachers.”

With the onset of the pandemic, collaborative work that was already underway both pivoted and accelerated. The child development staff quickly began writing, revising, and pushing out downloadable curriculum packets for all pre-K age groups. Mothers can use the activities in these packets to keep their children engaged in learning and key skill development using materials they can easily access at home. New activities will roll out every two weeks through the end of June, with feedback collected between batches to support a continuous improvement cycle. Teachers are checking in with students weekly via Zoom. 

“A lot of the day in early childhood is free play and social-emotional [learning],” says Rebecca Putzer, director of coordinated family services at the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. “We’re really trying to get our parents information and education around, ‘You don’t have to sit with your child for eight hours a day and do structured activities.’ That’s not what it’s about. And that’s not what it’s about in the classroom either. It’s bridging the home and classroom life. Luckily, at Jeremiah, we’ve been able to do that already. This is just a whole other layer.”

Jeremiah Program is also planning to post the lessons to the website so educators and parents outside the program can access the resources.

Life-Skills Coaching 

Because community is at the heart of Jeremiah Program, the inability to visit face-to-face posed a major service-delivery challenge for the virtual coaches. Several residence-based staff commented that they were used to seeing moms and kids every day. Many of their check-ins were informal; they had multiple opportunities each week to notice if someone was having a hard time or seemed particularly anxious about an issue in their lives. With this pattern so disrupted, a direct one-to-one translation of weekly in-person coaching to weekly online coaching was not going to adequately meet families’ needs, especially during a time of massive upheaval across multiple stressor areas.  

Coaches are now checking in with moms up to three times a week—sometimes more. At a minimum, each session addresses concerns related to employment status, school responsibilities (including looking ahead to registering for the fall), or any parenting challenges mothers may be facing (including identifying basic needs they are lacking, like diapers and formula). For all moms, especially those who have experienced domestic abuse, mental health issues, or chemical dependency, these touchpoints are an opportunity to connect and assess for any critical needs or safety issues. Depending on the need, a coaching session may involve talking through an unemployment application, troubleshooting how to respond to a child’s behavior issue, arranging to see a doctor for a medication adjustment, or any other conversation the circumstances call for. 

“I try to listen more and talk less in these meetings,” says Amy Klein, family services manager for Jeremiah Program’s Fargo, North Dakota, campus. “I try and make sure to at least hit those three areas [parenting, employment, and education] and then let them take the lead. Because, really, this is about them, and what their needs are, what they need from me, what they need from us as an organization.” 

Empowerment

Empowerment is a 16-week program that all Jeremiah participants must complete before officially joining the program. The curriculum focuses on breaking negative thought patterns, building self-esteem, and empowering women to trust their inherent capabilities to make good choices for themselves and their families. Because women enter and exit the program continually, and because the Empowerment experience builds on itself, transitioning to a virtual model poses some unique challenges. 

More than 60 moms were in the middle of their Empowerment when Jeremiah Program was forced to pause the program across all sites. By mid-May, classes will begin again via e-learning. Under normal circumstances, the Empowerment journey is designed to support mothers during their adjustment period when they are most vulnerable. Now, all mothers—regardless of their time in the program—are experiencing an adjustment period, one that may seriously test the skills they’ve developed in the program. For the admissions staff and Empowerment volunteers, this means building flexibility into the prompts and protocols they rely on during virtual Empowerment sessions. It also means exploring possibilities for sharing the Empowerment curriculum beyond Jeremiah Program so more women can benefit.

“[We have] really been focused on ensuring all moms have the technology they need for e-learning and moving the experience to a virtual platform,” says JoMarie Morris, executive director of Jeremiah Program’s Rochester campus. “Empowerment will look different, but we are excited for the opportunity to try some new program elements along with our core curriculum.” 

Virtual Childhood Development Resources 

Rebecca Putzer and Crystal Ward co-lead Jeremiah Program’s Child Development Center task force, which sprang into action over the past few weeks to create a set of distance learning modules mothers can use to teach their children at home with support from JP teachers. Before the pandemic, the task force was already reimagining what early childhood education could look like across all Jeremiah campuses, work that has now been accelerated and refocused on establishing a “new normal” that is both equitable and high-quality. 

Tell us about each of your roles at Jeremiah Program. 

Crystal: I have started working with Jeremiah for the last couple of months as an education consultant. I’ve spent my career in education as a middle school teacher, as an elementary school founder, and then—for the last six years or so—I’ve done leadership development and new school design. The work that I’m leading with the Child Development Center (CDC) task force and all of the managers and directors is thinking about how we take what has been really a regional approach (we focus on our children and the inner workings of what’s happening in St. Paul, for example) and, instead, looking at [Jeremiah Program] as a small school district. We should be cascading efforts—taking all of the CDCs across the Jeremiah program and thinking about ways in which we can share best practices and knowledge as well as capacity across all of our different sites to ensure all children are getting top-quality materials and guidance from their teachers. Even before COVID, the goal of my work with the task force was to think about creating this network of schools, but also thinking about the vision for 2020 and beyond of how Jeremiah is going to re-imagine early childhood to be world-class in the nation. 

Rebecca: I’ve been at Jeremiah for about 13 and a half years and in my current role for about six as the director of coordinated family services. In that role, I work with our coaching teams that are working one-on-one with the moms and also our Child Development Centers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I float between the two campuses: I have a firsthand account of what’s happening with our moms in terms of goals and challenges and things that they’re working on, and then also with our teachers and our center managers. Essentially, my role is to help Crystal on the ground with our early childhood programming, as well as the collaboration across Jeremiah’s other components. As a holistic program, what we can do in partnership with our moms and children? How do we leverage all the talent and resources we have across all of our campuses for the betterment of all Jeremiah families?

How was the first round of virtual learning modules created? 

Crystal: It was really quick actually. Rebecca had a huge hand in polishing those off and making sure that they looked really clean for our families. We used that as our initial template that we’re now revising to give to teachers to then do planning over the course of the next 10 weeks or so so that kids have resources through the end of June.

In terms of planning, we asked, “What are we hearing from our moms? What is a good thing for us to provide to ensure that our kids have something and that they’re hearing from their teachers as well?”

We decided on two major things. One is that teachers are going to check in with their students weekly and hone that connection so that families can ask teachers any questions they might need to ask about some of the content. The second was that we wanted to provide developmentally appropriate materials to children from zero to five. We have different age bands with appropriate age-level activities: for our infants, there are sensory activities, and then for our oldest preschoolers, there’s writing.

For our first week, we honed the expertise of all of our managers and some of the teachers to come up with what would be good for kids to do each week. We also understood that this is a really tough time; families may use these resources, or they may feel like, “I’ve got this under control. We have a rhythm,” versus other moms who are on the spectrum of saying, “I need restructure, I need help.” We wanted to be able to hit a note across the board of where people are at and the needs they have.

Their interactions with school should be roughly 45 minutes. I’m just giving general guidance so that our teachers can take our initial plans and run with them. We’re doing a sprint over the next three to four weeks to have two months of plans completed. We’ll share them across all Jeremiah regions, including the nonresidential sites in Boston and New York City.

We’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback so far. We’re going to start learning how families are feeling about them here shortly. We’re releasing weekly, but we’re planning in, in two-week chunks. This week, two regions are planning for the next two weeks, so we’re not doing it on a week-by-week basis. We want to accelerate it so that we can get the plans out of the way and start utilizing our teachers and the visioning for what Jeremiah Program will be in the future.

Rebecca: It has been a sprint, as Crystal said. One guiding piece: We did use the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, which helped us nail down and solidify our highest priority development areas for each age group. Our intention was to help build parent awareness surrounding all of the learning happening already with their children each and every day.  A lot of it is appropriate expectations for early childhood education because much of the day in early childhood classrooms includes free play and social-emotional [learning]. We are attempting to get our parents information and support to alleviate additional stress or unrealistic expectations. You don’t have to sit with your child for eight hours a day and do structured activities. That’s not what it’s about. And that’s not what early childhood education looks like in the classroom either. It’s just bridging the home and classroom life for children. Luckily, at Jeremiah, we’ve been doing that all along for our families, even pre-COVID, as part of our wrap-around services and two-generation model. This is just a whole other layer. 

Crystal: We’ve also been thoughtful about what families already have at the ready for kids, so the activities are stuff like fill the bathtub and throw toys in there, right? And like do things like that with our youngest kids. Because of the additional layer of support of having moms at residences, we know what resources they have. Like everybody has a tub, for example. Everybody can go downstairs and get materials from the CDC to do construction or cutting or mixing of different dyes and things like that. Except for the small population of community families, we’re able to ensure that they have the resources that they need.

What is the plan for incorporating feedback?

Crystal: We have a plan to send out a survey, but also ask our teachers, “How’s it going?” Each week, teachers are going to send a roll-up to their managers and directors of what’s happening with each child and the requests from moms. We understood that this has had to happen very quickly. As a designer, it’s counter to what I know is good practice: to not involve the end user in our design. We would have loved to have moms on the task force initially to help us design these things, but with COVID and the crisis and the pandemic, that additional ask of them was something that we were trying to tread lightly on. What we really want our moms to do is just tell us, “What do you need?” A lot of them are in survival mode, and so asking them to spend two hours a week helping us felt insensitive.

And so instead, what we plan to do is ask moms, “We’re going to start designing what the future of early childhood looks like. For those of you that have the capacity and are interested, we want you to join our design teams.” And if they can’t join, what we’re going to do is provide small touchpoints for them to be able to give feedback along the way so that it’s truly informed by our families and not just from the brains of people who aren’t living and breathing the experience of our moms and kids.

Are you exclusively sharing these modules with Jeremiah Program moms or are you releasing them to a wider audience?

Crystal: We’ve already started sharing them with people who are asking. A couple of my friends have young children, but their daycares are not providing anything, and I’ve shared the plans with them and they’re really excited about it. Initial feedback is really strong. I think it would be something for us to think about how we might even be able to put this on our website and have people come access the resources because, at this point, it’s really about everybody. Teachers are always open to share their resources, and as a community of practice, we really want to be open. I think that’s something that we could discuss. There could be a plan to share it in a more formalized way. 

How did you approach blending academics with social-emotional learning? 

Rebecca: Going forward, each week we’ll have a theme to help us not duplicate the same stuff and also keeps children engaged. But the social-emotional part is really challenging, and one attempt at helping is a parent guide that we are creating. It will hopefully help with support related to, “How do you talk to your children about what’s happening now?” This stuff isn’t necessarily written into early childhood education materials, but it’s situational and it’s happening now. Questions would also be happening if children were in classrooms as teachers are talking about current events and teaching children about the things that are happening around them. So, a lot of the social-emotional content is going to come through in the packet of materials as questions parents or caregivers could be asking their children, different things they could try to talk about in terms of topics. Mostly encouraging a dialogue with their children and being open to questions, talking through feelings, and acknowledging that this is a tough time for many people. 

Once we launch the teacher check-ins with children and families, that will hopefully also help. Relationships are a large part of learning. The hope is that teachers will eventually be able to do small group time so that classmates will be able to interact with each other virtually. We’re going to have to get creative in many ways because a lot of the social-emotional pieces and learning moments just happen naturally, in terms of initiating play and figuring out the world around you. Our parents and caregivers are going to take the lead in this area as they interact with their children, but our teachers will be there to help along the way as well.

I guess the short answer to that questions is that we don’t have one complete solution for social-emotional development at this time, other than we recognize that it is vital in early childhood education. We haven’t done virtual learning programming until now and are still a work in progress. I’m confident that we will get our families high quality, well-rounded programming.

Crystal: With the other task forces [have] real lines of sight into how to support moms in their own emotions and wellbeing so that they can then support kids. One of the things that I know the coaches have been talking about is just general supports for them. They’re communicating, cascading back communication to us about how we might help alleviate some of the tension points that moms are feeling. Even though this is a stark and strong move away from what normal probably feels like for a lot of our families, I think we do come from the vein of feeling as though families are not only just partners, but they’re their child’s number one teacher. The idea that our teachers are there as support to our families is indicative of the type of partnership that Jeremiah wants to have with families. It’s really about just knowing the kids individually. A lot of our teachers are super excited to be checking in with families and checking in with kids, but they’re also tailoring what these [modules] to specific children. When our teachers get ahold of them, I think we’re going to see a lot of innovations and really thoughtful additions to what they’re going to provide for kids.

How is Jeremiah Program making sure participants have the right technology to be able to participate in the virtual programs?

Crystal: Chastity’s been a real front-runner on this. She has talked about not seeing this pandemic and the situation we’re in as incremental shifts, but thinking about it as changing the game and how we literally operate and the things that we provide. So Chastity is not trying to look at the end of when shelter-in-place is lifted. She’s saying, “What does this mean for changing the scope of what we do altogether?” Because COVID is going to change what we do, how we interact, what’s acceptable. The normal that we knew is not going to be the normal we walk back into, and technology is a huge piece of that.

They’ve been able to secure 50 Lenovo laptops from Rasmussen College. What we did early on was send out a survey to all the teachers to ask what their technology needs are, including whether or not they had reliable WIFI, as well as access to some type of device that has a camera and a microphone and the ability to type so that they could plan. We have already distributed a number of laptops and are going to get to WIFI hotspots to our teachers. The next step in the process is for us to take the extra computers and distribute them to our families so that everybody—teacher, family, and staff—are connected 

Chastity had the foresight to say, “How do we get our hands on some technology early ?” and she was able to get a lot of those resources. We have an abundance right now because most people have it at home, luckily. But for the folks that didn’t, we were able to send that out to them very quickly. 

How do you see these modules and this modality being part of Jeremiah Program after the pandemic passes?

Crystal: I believe that where we’re headed is actually a more holistic, whole-child approach of what distance and virtual learning could look like. The resources are an immediate fix. It’s something that we can tangibly give to families, but I’m really excited about the promise of thinking about: If we can never go back to a CDC as we know it, what does this mean? What does this mean for how we interface as an organization with our families? The idea of getting into the headspace of: How might we think about the future of early childhood not being confined to the four walls of a child development center? How might we utilize technology to increase alignment and learning between families and our school? How might we see children and their individual interests as the guiding principles for the things that we use in our classrooms and amongst all of the JP regions? 

The work of innovation and the work of redesign requires us to leave behind a mindset that we already know. The exercise of having to think a new and thinking of something that hasn’t been done yet is going to take some time. It’s also going to take some inspiration for folks to feel that there is a new normal that we can design. And there’s a lot of benefit in doing so because we understand that schools are inequitable. They have been for hundreds of years. And if we have the opportunity to redesign, why not redesign with the idea that we have the opportunity to give our children the very best? It’s no longer about a geographical zip code. It’s no longer about a subset of teachers in that region. Everything that we can imagine we can actually make possible with the advent of this idea that we no longer have to operate school in the way that we’ve always known it.

Jo Marie on Covid-19

Interview with Jo Marie on
Covid-19

JoMarie Morris is the executive director of Jeremiah Program’s Rochester-Southeast Minnesota campus, Jeremiah Program’s newest campus; programming began 18 months ago, and the residential campus is scheduled to open its doors to 40 families at the end of summer 2020.

How did you come to learn about COVID-19, and when did you understand it was going to have such a major effect on Jeremiah Program?

I came to learn about it because I’m on the Community Services Advisory Committee for Olmsted County where Rochester is situated. One of the leaders on that committee is the Director of County Public Health, and pretty early on we received a short briefing about: This is out here. So, I had a little bit of groundwork, but there was nothing from that first discussion with our Director of Public Health here that would have led me to believe we would be where we are today. I don’t think that any of us knew or thought that we would be in the situation we are today.

What were some of your biggest concerns for Jeremiah Program families when things got really serious?

One of the primary concerns is trying to keep families stable until we can open up this campus so they have a safe place to live. We’re desperate, like many parts of the country, for safe, affordable housing; many of our families are in vulnerable housing situations. So, the first thing for me was: “Are we going to be able to still open the campus this summer? What can we do to make sure that our families are going to be safe until that happens?” 

Remarkably, it’s still pretty on schedule to open later this summer. It’ll be probably a few weeks later than we were [planning], but again, it’s a day-by-day situation.

We’ve had a little bit of an issue regarding getting supply materials for the campus. Warehouses are shut down across the country. So, we’re doing a lot of shifting and pivoting as we try to move things forward as quickly as we can. The project managers are honest with me that if someone on site is tested positive for COVID that the site will immediately be shut down. 

What were some of your biggest concerns for Jeremiah Program staff?

My staff has been amazing. They have risen to the occasion. They found ways to provide more support and guidance for our families, finding creative ways to do it and really working beyond their job descriptions to make sure our families are safe. I couldn’t be more proud to work with my team and the teams across the country. Everybody’s really come together to make that happen.

I very much worry about my staff. Most of them are working remotely, but again, they’re doing as much as they can to reach out to our families and making sure they are getting what they need as far as food and immediate resources for their children, support when they’ve lost their jobs.

Chastity and the teams together have created these task forces around resources for families [that] have been really crucial to keeping our families stable. We’re all working really, really hard and committed to our families, but also giving each other grace to take care of ourselves and our families, too, which is a hard thing to do.

How has your job specifically changed?

A lot of work with the [virtual programming] task force and more robust communication with my team, so that we can pivot and be even more fluid than we have been in the past. Just to make sure that everybody’s going to be safe—both that staff’s needs are taken care of and our families’. That has changed. I’m a little bit more focused on immediate needs and shorter blocks of planning. What do we immediately need to do, but how does that relate to how we continue to grow our program and move our organization forward at the same time? I’m really proud of how the leadership team has, in a time of crisis, taken the vision of the organization and launched initiatives that will make our organization much stronger in the future.

What are some examples of resilience you have witnessed, either in the families that you support or with your staff? 

Because we don’t have our campus open yet, we don’t have what’s called a Resident Council, but we have a Participant’s Council. So, all those women who’ve completed Empowerment, and been accepted into the program and getting ready to move onto the campus, they form a Participant Council where they establish their own leadership. They do their own elections. We teach them a summary of Robert’s Rules [of Engagement] and get them comfortable forming that organization and becoming a voice for themselves as a partner with us to move our programming—and what we’re doing with Jeremiah—forward.

We just started this last fall, and the women in our program already have really run with it. They have done amazing things as a Participant Council. When we had the situation with COVID and we weren’t going to be able to have Life Skills classes (we have this Participant Council scheduled in with our Life Skills classes), immediately they said, “No, we want to do it anyway, and we want to find a way to do it virtually because we want to make sure we’re able to support one another and continue to partner with JP staff as we’re getting ready to move on the campus.”

And, so, they did. Every single one of those participants found a way to engage virtually. Every single one of them was on the call and talked about how they could support one another, what their concerns were, how they could express their concerns to the staff, and work with us in growing the program. It was incredible for me to hear that. It was really early on, too; I would say that was in the first two weeks or so of us starting to do virtual coaching and engaging with our participants virtually. It just shows that whole empowerment piece: “We built a sisterhood. We’re going to support one another. We’re going to be a partner with Jeremiah staff in our programming and our goals.” I just loved that.

How do you think things will be different at Jeremiah Program after this pandemic?

I think it’s really going to provide an opportunity for our coaches to develop and align even more our protocols for virtual coaching and shared resources and best practices. And I really think that’s going to be a springboard, or a strong foundation, for growth, for serving our families with enhanced coaching platforms—different, various coaching platforms that are going to have more versatility and ultimately strengthen our coaching structure and philosophy. I also think it will improve our ability to be more fluid and have more robust program evaluation. I think there are a lot of opportunities we can glean from this time, as difficult and as stressful as it has been.

I’m a Minnesota farm girl who grew up in a rural area. The other opportunity that I see: I think this will lead us to more opportunity for serving more families, especially those families that are in rural areas and don’t have the access that some people are fortunate to have.

What do you want people to know about how this pandemic is affecting single mothers in poverty?

Our program participants are among the most vulnerable to start with; adding the pandemic on top of that makes them even more vulnerable to things like homelessness, domestic abuse, a multitude of other things. They’re already living on the edge and making it day by day. 

The other thing that I’ve learned in working with our program participants is the majority of them are very isolated. They just don’t have a lot of community and family support, and that is one of the key pillars for Jeremiah: providing that community and wrapping of them up in both the sisterhood and the support from the teams and the larger community. I’ve really seen that that’s made all the difference in the world for our families. We have to be vigilant in continuing to provide that community and doing it in different ways during this pandemic, so the women aren’t continuing in isolation and the significant mental health vulnerabilities that come with that. 

Karina Van Meekeren on Covid-19

Interview with Karina Van Meekeren on
Covid-19

Karina Van Meekeren is the family program development and admissions manager for Jeremiah Program’s Rochester campus in Southeast Minnesota. 

What were your biggest concerns for the families you work with when the pandemic first began?

The worry and fear for our families overall. Being able to connect with them and give them resources and offer support throughout the whole thing. What was it going to look like for so many different areas? When it first started, we didn’t know. People were freaking out over toilet paper. What was the diaper outlook going to be like? What was the formula outlet going to be like?

We don’t have a residential campus yet. It’s in the process of being built. And, so, one of the biggest things also was: Is our construction going to continue? Are the families going to be able to move in this summer? We have so much riding on that. For most of our families, the timeline is critical. We cover all of Southeast Minnesota, so we have 11 counties and we have families in five of those counties right now. It’s difficult because they’ve put in notice or they’ve let their landlord know that they’re planning on moving, and now that may be prolonged.

What were your biggest concerns for the staff you supervise?

Some of the staff were afraid about losing their jobs. We tried to reassure them from the beginning; I knew that we would have definitely enough work to go around, working with our families and ensuring that they were taken care of and meeting their needs. But that was a fear for sure. And I would say just figuring out the go-forward plan with so much uncertainty was difficult.

Now, we’re settled in and we know what we’re supposed to be doing and what it looks like. But how long is this going to last? It’s a lot of unknowns. 

How has your job specifically changed since the pandemic began?

In the beginning it felt like we were trying to make sure everybody was going to stay busy by working from home, not realizing the [work]load of keeping our families calm and trying to get them through this in a manner that didn’t seem chaotic. Truly, the family coaches and myself probably doubled our caseload because we have so many families that we’re touching base with two and three times a week instead of once a week. 

I am on multiple committees that are now meeting and trying to mitigate the go-forward plan. Last week I think I hit a wall and I really was frustrated. Now, this week is good again. I feel that’s just how it might be right now for everyone; like it or not, we’re on a roller coaster. And that’s ok, too. Whatever people are feeling through this—it’s all valid and it’s all ok.

I feel really tied to my computer every single minute of every day. I don’t have a good office chair at my house that I’m now sitting in for 10 hours a day. I just have my laptop; I don’t have my big monitor. I don’t have like a great setup. I’m hunched over and on the phone and on the computer all day every day. I’m not used to that. It’s just making those adjustments that you didn’t think of.

What kinds of support are your clients needing when you check in? What themes are you noticing?

For the moms who have lost their jobs or are temporarily laid off, it’s getting unemployment. It’s getting in the systems that are overloaded. That part is difficult. We’re doing some budget planning with them, like, “Okay, well this is one month for sure, but let’s plan for two months just in case. Where can your budget go down a little bit?” There are a lot of food supports in Southeast Minnesota, so that part hasn’t been as difficult. And we have a lot of businesses that are offering free food during the day, which is a huge, huge help. 

For the moms who are in recovery, community plays such a big part of their sobriety, so not having that is really difficult. Online meetings are definitely not the same as in-person or meeting with your sponsor. Mental health is a biggie—getting appointments with doctors because maybe they need a med change right now because their depression has skyrocketed or because their anxiety has gone up and they’re not sleeping well. No doctors want to give med changes virtually. They want to see you in person. Those availabilities are few and far between.

And then also navigating the kids being at home all day. The moms [are] now going to online learning if they’re enrolled in school. They’re not used to having kids around all day and trying to do their schoolwork or their homework. It’s madness. 

I’m either seeing families that we’re needing to connect with multiple times a week, or it’s completely the opposite and they have isolated themselves are finding it hard to get out of bed. So, we just focus on, “Let’s do one thing today. Let’s get that one thing done, and that’s going to be a success.” 

What examples of resilience or mutual support between the moms have you seen? 

We have 27 active families right now between our two Empowerment courses and our life skills participant group, and those have been wonderful. They also have a Messenger group with each other that we’re not involved in, and they’re incredibly supportive right now of each other through that.

We have several pregnant moms who are really worried about what the pandemic is going to look like. We had a mom who just gave birth this week, and that was so very different than what she’s experienced before with her other child. The support from each other through that has been really, really good. I think some of them are feeling a lot closer with each other than they did before. 

How is Jeremiah Program supporting moms in response to the crisis?

Jeremiah had a plan in place. There was good communication right from the get-go. They put together committees, although we didn’t wait for the committees to have action; we took action locally first. We sent out gift cards to our families and had interaction with them right away, just knowing that committees take time, even the best committees. But the committees have been really good at doing what needs to be done and meeting deadlines to get products to our families.

The Child Development Curriculum committee has done a phenomenal job putting together packets per age group that we can get for our families. It helps them with staying on task and keeping the children busy while the moms are able to do their schoolwork themselves. 

There is also a committee to [get] technology … in the hands of some of the families, because that’s an issue. We have some who don’t have technology capabilities, whether it be from bandwidth or internet or no phone service. So, we have a committee that’s been working on that too, and they’ve addressed some of the needs really quickly. 

What do you want people to understand about how the pandemic is affecting a single mothers in poverty?

Single moms in poverty—not always, but typically—don’t have another support system. We have moms who are struggling in dealing with difficult decisions right now: “I could continue at my job at the grocery store, which is really needed right now, but I’m the only person for my little one at home. And, so, if I get sick, then what?” Or “What if I end up in the hospital?  I don’t have anybody to take care of my child. So, do I not go to work? Or do I go to work and risk both of our health every single day?” There isn’t someone else.

Do you have any thoughts about how you think things will be different going forward after the pandemic? 

I think it will be a new normal; what that looks like, I don’t know yet. Our program has such a foundation in the community of it and the togetherness of it. Changing that could change different components of our program. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I know that we’re going to look at different ways of doing things, and that’s okay. These times in our life are changing times, and that’s a good thing. We can go on a different path and end up in a better place that we didn’t even know was possible. 

Amy Fargo on Covid-19

Interview with Amy Fargo on
Covid-19

Amy Klein is the Family Services Manager and Jeremiah Program’s Fargo, North Dakota, campus, where she also serves as a family coach for the resident mothers. 

When did you first realize the COIVD-19 pandemic was going to affect your life and the lives of Jeremiah Program families?

It was March 15th because that’s when our governor canceled school for the week. To be quite honest, I thought, “This isn’t going to last long. It’s going to be a week and we’ll be back and running, back in business.” 

We had childcare open on the 16th and that was the last day that the child development center was open. Then, moms were wondering, “Are we opening up on the 23rd? What’s happening?” It became more serious when there was an email from Chastity that basically said, “We don’t want to open these child development centers too soon when this pandemic hasn’t really even hit some areas.”

It’s been surreal for everyone involved; I don’t think anybody ever thought something like this would happen in their lifetime. We work with 18 women in the program, and they’re also thinking that same thing: This is just completely surreal—and is this really happening?

What was your biggest concern for the families you work with when this first began? 

Two of the greatest benefits we offer to these moms is safe, affordable housing and affordable, reliable, and outstanding childcare. I knew in my heart that if they weren’t able to pay their rent for the month, they weren’t going to get kicked out. We would figure out something. So, the housing piece wasn’t a concern. But they are still enrolled in college, now online. A lot of [the moms] are still working, and then we had to shut down our child development centers. Then, my concern went to, “Are they going to be able to continue working? Are they going to be able to continue school because their kids are going to be with them all the time?” Those were my two biggest concerns.

How has your job has changed since that time?

Where my office is, all moms used to go past me in the mornings when they drop off their kids and when they pick up their kids. I would see them all a lot. I feel I have some very good connections with the moms; I probably talked to some of them two to three times a day. I think that was the biggest shift for me: There are really no face-to-face meetings recommended at this point unless we’re six feet away. That was probably the biggest shift for the residents as well, not being able to pop in, talk to me, ask me a question, have me help them with something.

Are you doing coaching over the phone? 

I’m having meetings over Zoom at this point. I was kind of worried about it, and the first few minutes are kind of awkward, but then you start talking and chatting and it’s fine. The biggest distraction for the mom’s is having their children right there.  They are busy and want to see who is on the iPad or phone.  Normally if they had to talk to me about something or if they needed help with something—with school or paperwork or anything like that—their kids would have been in childcare. Now, those kids are with those moms almost 100 percent of the time. 

What kinds of supports have you noticed your clients needing? 

The moms in our program are doing really well right now, all things considered. Most moms were able to get their taxes filed right before this happened, so financially they were doing okay. Even some who have lost their jobs are eligible for unemployment, so I’m helping them with that, if needed.

I keep asking them every time we get done [with] a meeting, “How are you doing on supplies? How are you doing on food? Is there anything that we can help you with?” Between their taxes and the stimulus money they have received, most are doing okay right now. If this goes two or three months more, that may not be the case. 

If an individual has mental health issues, I think this is much harder for them than it is for those who are not experiencing any mental health issues right now. This pandemic and the quarantine is pretty tough on them: just being cooped up in their apartment, not feeling like they can leave, being scared to go out for fear of getting the virus, and having all of their normal turned upside down. Some individuals really rely on that stability and that routine, and everything just got flipped. The hardest thing is: Nobody has answers. Nobody knows when everything’s going back to normal. Nobody knows when daycare’s going to reopen.  There are more unknowns than answers right now.

How is Jeremiah showing support for staff?

I have one word: valued. At a time when companies are forced to lay off employees because of these very uncertain and financially challenging times, Jeremiah Program leadership has stepped up and ensured that our jobs are secure. 

Most people are working from home, which is a blessing. If you or somebody in your family has immune deficiency issues or whatever the case may be, to be able to have that option to be able to work from home is great appreciated.

They’re strategically thinking, “How can we make this work? We are asking you to work from home, but you still have to do your job.” So, that entails the virtual coaching, virtual Empowerment, and meetings. My direct supervisor is very understanding and very willing to listen, always has an open ear to concerns or questions.

What worries you most about the pandemic?

My biggest fear is one of our Jeremiah families, one of our moms, getting the virus. What if it ended up spreading through the building? 

I’m kind of with everybody else: “How long is this going to go on? When can we get back to our new normal? What kind of impact is this going to have long-term on people?” There are just so many unknowns. 

How do you see things being different in the future?

I think the way we interact as a society will change drastically. People may always have that fear of something like this happening again and will be mindful of what they are doing and how they are doing it. I feel that Jeremiah Program will have more programmatic pieces offered virtually, from coaching to Empowerment as well as life-skills classes. I personally think at the beginning this may be a little challenging because this will be something new, another change in the way we do things. One thing I worry about is that there won’t be those personal connections—or as strong of connections—going forward. However, people and views evolve and change every day and soon this may be the new normal. I do feel that we will be able to have a greater impact on more women in our communities by being able to offer classes virtually. It’s the right direction to go because who knows if this will ever happen again. If it does, we will be ready.

Director Of Finance | Minneapolis – St. Paul

Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for ending the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time. Two-generation – or 2Gen — programs uniquely focus on the whole family and achieve long-term, sustainable results. The approach has been proven to achieve significant educational, health and economic benefits for parents, children and communities. Because systemic inequities, personal bias and racism create disparities in power and possibilities, we are boldly transforming communities with the power of diversity, equity and inclusion.  

Jeremiah Program is expanding throughout the country to meet the growing demand for its model. The organization has campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, Austin, TX, and Fargo, ND and our Central Services office is in Minneapolis. Construction has begun on a campus in Rochester-SE, MN, set to open summer 2020. In Boston and Brooklyn, Jeremiah has introduced an innovative nonresidential model, working with leading organizations to serve mothers and children. Learn more here. 

The Director of Finance plays a key role in translating our Jeremiah Program mission into reality. This position has overall responsibilities to include external and internal reporting and analysis, financial operations, treasury and cash management activities, policies and internal control practices, regulatory compliance and reporting, financial analysis and actively participate in the organizations Leadership Team.  The Director of Finance reports to the Chief Finance and Administrative Officer and manages four full-time staff members (Finance Manager, Senior Accountant, Staff Account and Team Coordinator. This position is member of the CEO’s Leadership Team (CLT).

PRINCIPAL (OR ESSENTIAL) DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Preside over preparation and analysis of management reporting, budgets (income, expenses, capital expenditures, three/five year projections), annual audit, 990, and 403b (serving as lead liaison), grant financial submissions and reporting, Board and Trustee presentations, and regulatory reporting.  Summarize such information providing insights, probable outcomes, risks, and opportunities.

Establish and maintain excellent relationships and service with our campus and central service environment.  Strongly engage as an important member of the Leadership Team contributing financial and organizational insights.

Provide supervision over the financial accounting operations: general ledger preparation, A/P, payroll, bank reconciliations, income recording, cash receipts and disbursements, credit card management.  Oversee the infrastructure of financial systems, processes, policies, and procedures. Manage and motivate current team of four talented financial members: Financial Manager, Sr. Accountant, Staff Accountant.

Maintain banking relationships and provide cashflow, capital, and investment analysis and reporting.

Develop a strong internal control environment throughout Jeremiah Program to streamline processes and decision making. At least annually, review financial policies and procedures.  Maintain a continuous improvement environment.

Ensure compliance with GAAP, and regulatory requirements: compliance with Federal and State regulations for funded capital construction and program projects.

Create, maintain, and improve upon key performance indicators to support management and Board information.  Collaborate with other functional areas to include financial information with program and funding performance indicators.

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in accounting and/or CPA
  • EXPERIENCE
    • Five to ten years of Controllership experience working across multiple financial areas: financial planning, investment, reporting, audit, and controls.
    • Two-plus years’ experience working with finance software platforms: Sage, Intacct, or Black Baud Financial Edge NXT
    • Five years of managing a professional finance staff.
    • Experience working in a national nonprofit organization with an annual budget in excess of $5 million.
    • Experience working in a multi-site national organization preferred.
  • FINANCIAL ACUMEN
    • Solid technical accounting background, nuts and bolts experience in the operations of a nonprofit, and comfortable with hands-on involvement.
    • Demonstrated ability to present and convey information through compelling frameworks: written, presentation, and verbal.
    • Ability to interpret and forecast trends from data based information.
    • Strong experience with financial systems.
    • Superior communication skills (written, verbal and presentation); ability to communicate complex financial concepts to individuals at all levels of the organization and to finance and non-finance positions.
    • Solid knowledge and understanding of intra-company accounting with multiple sites preferably relating to 501c3 regulations.
    • Commitment to confidentiality and the ability to exercise absolute discretion and independent judgment.
  • ACTION ORIENTED, COLLABORATIVE LEADER
  • Ability to work effectively and accurately under pressure, meet deadlines and manage competing priorities; must be flexible and adaptable in a rapid response environment.
  • Strong talent leader who builds and has been a part of highly effective teams.
  • Inspiring and experienced leader, team-builder and people manager; able to serve as a mentor and role model of excellence for staff and to ensure a culture of innovation, collaboration and accountability.
  • Exceptional work ethic and track record of personal initiative.
  • Demonstrated interpersonal and communication skills – both written and verbal – with a passion for collaborating with people and teams based in various office locations and/or working remotely.
  • Passionate about the mission of the organization and understands the realities of the nonprofit sector.

HOW TO APPLY

Jeremiah Program is committed to the recruitment, selection, development and promotion of employees based on individual merit. Our policy is to provide equal employment opportunity to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.

We offer competitive compensation including employer-paid health and dental, life and disability insurance and generous time off. Candidates will be located at our Central Services office in Minneapolis, MN.

Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply online.  Please upload a current resume and thoughtful cover letter articulating your interest and fit for the role, including compensation requirements.

Senior Development Manager | Minneapolis – St. Paul

Our History

Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for ending the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time. Two-generation – or 2Gen — programs uniquely focus on the whole family and achieve long-term, sustainable results. The approach has been proven to achieve significant educational, health and economic benefits for parents, children and communities. Because systemic inequities, personal bias and racism create disparities in power and possibilities, we are boldly transforming communities with the power of diversity, equity and inclusion.  

Jeremiah Program is expanding throughout the country to meet the growing demand for its model. The organization has campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, Austin, TX, and Fargo, ND and our national office is in Minneapolis. Construction has begun on a campus in Rochester-SE, MN, set to open summer 2020. In Boston and Brooklyn, Jeremiah has introduced an innovative nonresidential model, working with leading organizations to serve mothers and children. Learn more at JeremiahProgram.org.  

JP was born from Minneapolis community leaders’ compassionate concern for the barriers facing the growing number of low-income single mothers in their community. Partnering with single mothers attending local community colleges, they identified safe and affordable housing, as well as education for both mom and child, as the most important tools for ending intergenerational poverty. Our downtown Minneapolis campus was built in 1998, followed by our St. Paul campus in 2007. With a 21-year history of inspiring post-secondary graduation rates and living-wage employment for single moms, and brighter futures for their children, JP continues to play a critical role in disrupting the impacts of poverty in the Twin Cities and bolstering equity so all families in our community can build well-being and achieve economic prosperity.  

The Senior Development Manager is a new position and will report to the Executive Director, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Role

JP is seeking a detail-oriented, organized, creative team player for a new position of Senior Development Manager, a position that will be vital to fulfilling our annual fundraising goals of $2.8M. The Senior Development Manager will report directly to the Executive Director, Minneapolis – St. Paul and will have three areas of responsibility: (1) supervising the development operations; (2) using strong project management skills to lead and implement various projects within major gifts, including both individuals and corporate and family foundations, and across the larger development team as needed; and, (3) overseeing and maintaining key major gifts operations and functionality. The Senior Development Manager must have great interpersonal skills, an ability to work with a significant volume of highly varying data requiring rigor, a strong understanding of data systems, and ability to thrive in a complex environment, one that is new to project management and therefore often lacks an awareness of project management tools and methodology. Additionally, the Senior Development Manager needs to be highly aware of the end-user’s needs when developing new or refreshing current processes, systems and protocols to ensure a high degree of integration and adoption into workflows and development operations. Most importantly, the Senior Development Manager will understand and value the proposition of working within a national organization and be committed to leveraging economies of scale with a mission-based and donor-centric approach to fundraising.

 

CORE RESPONSIBILITIES

In close partnership with the Executive Director, the Senior Development Manager will:

  • Lead and manage a high functioning MSP Development Team.
  • Execute and steward an individual giving strategy, to raise $1.3M, in collaboration with the MSP development team, the MSP Interim ED, and the CST.
  • Coordinate institutional relationships, grant applications, site visits and reporting, in collaboration with the ED and CDT grants team.
  • Signature events – strategy, execution and stewardship of events
  • Oversee key major gifts functions and bodies of work including, but not limited to, high level portfolio management, the cultivation, solicitation, acknowledgement and stewardship process, and team administration.
  • Embody and adhere to development/fundraising best practices.
  • Supervise data integrity to ensure a trust-worthy and robust donor base of record, including supervising data entry by associates, coordinators, and officers. Ensure compliance with entry standards for portfolios and provides control for the resulting prospect data.
  • Coach MSP development staff in the maintenance of their portfolios in the CRM database.
  • Maximize database functionality by working in close partnership with Campus Support Team to identify new and better ways of using the database.
  • Maintain auditing and reporting systems.     
  • Partner with Executive Director to monitor the development expense budget and track revenue goals.


Community Board of Trustees:

  • Ensure active participation, at all levels, by community board members and support effective roles and functioning.
  • Partner with development committee to provide the necessary information and access to meet annual fundraising goals.
  • Work with Executive Director to ensure 100% of community board of trustees meet give/get expectations and facilitate commitments and engagements from their networks.

 

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

We are Looking For Someone Who Is:

  • A Relationship Builder. You are genuinely curious about new people and possess strong listening skills. You like learning what motivates people, what inspires their generosity, and makes them feel appreciated. You have the ability to initiate, organize and manage projects, and to interface successfully with colleagues in a collaborative approach.
  • Receives and Provides Direct Feedback. Actively gives and requests feedback to and from peers, supervisors and direct reports (If applicable) about work products, behaviors, values, style and approaches with a view on how this impacts self, other individuals and teams.
  • Persistent and Optimistic. You are intrinsically motivated and undaunted by ambitious goals. You have the creativity and tenacity to find your way around a “no” answer to a more productive “not right now,” “maybe,” or best yet, “yes.”
  • Exceptional in Communicating Verbally and in Writing. Demonstrated ability to write and edit persuasive materials including successful appeals, proposals, stewardship materials and other collateral. You have excellent presentation and negotiation skills.
  • Intentional. Your working style is about creating order and planning ahead. You are a strategic thinker who always has their end goal in sight – asking for and closing gifts. You are skilled at keeping yourself on track with a portfolio of donors and are highly organized.
  • An Organizational Maven. You can manage across multiple work streams and functions, keeping deadlines and managing complexity by simplifying solutions, systems and processes with clarity and attention to detail. You have an ability to efficiently initiate and complete multiple tasks on time.
  • Adaptable and Flexible. You can handle any curveball, and in fact, you expect them. You can meet deadlines and manage competing priorities. Additionally, you are strategic and have the ability to pivot quickly as priorities shift and the team continues to take shape. You can and are willing to travel if needed.
  • Passion for Coaching, and Mentoring Staff.  Empowers and motivates employees and creates opportunities for learning, development, and leadership, with a focus on harnessing skills for the future development of team members.

 

 What You Will Need:

  • Professional Experience: You have (10) ten years of professional experience, with at least (5) five being in development related activities. You have a proven track record initiating, stewarding and moving individual gifts to higher levels of support. Specifically, you have worked on a team responsible for raising $2.5M or more and personally managed a portfolio $1M or more.
  • The Ability to Execute on Fundraising Plans and Strategies That Generate Significant Results. You regularly use data to drive decision-making and reflect on your rigorous and donor centered plans for sustaining and growing your donor base and revenue. You have strong prospect research skills and a solid understanding of moves management.
  • Mission Alignment. You have enthusiasm, familiarity and demonstrated alignment with JP’s mission and campaigns and also a commitment to building/ deepening your commitment to racial justice. You are steadfast in your support of JP’s long-term sustainability and are committed to a career with impact.
  • Willingness to travel. You are open to traveling up to 4-6 trips per year.

HOW TO APPLY

Jeremiah Program is committed to the recruitment, selection, development and promotion of employees based on individual merit. Our policy is to provide equal employment opportunity to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.

We offer competitive compensation including employer-paid health and dental, life and disability insurance and generous time off. Candidates will be located at our Central Services office in Minneapolis, MN.

Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply online.  Please upload a current resume and thoughtful cover letter articulating your interest and fit for the role, including compensation requirements.

Jeremiah Program Is No Stranger to Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to harness the creativity and innovation that drive our community.

Chastity Lord

This is a shape-shifting moment within our country. As a leader, a mother, and a citizen, this past month has been simultaneously frightening, frustrating, and inspiring. Each day, we move through those emotions and acknowledge that the world has become unrecognizable—but we can’t remain still for too long. We must begin to shape the contours of our new world and ask, “What opportunities does this present? What can we do to reduce the poverty tax on moms and families?”

In the U.S., people of all socioeconomic levels have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the pandemic isn’t a great equalizer—far from it. Folks who were experiencing poverty before the pandemic are now experiencing it at a deeper level. Women experiencing poverty will have more difficulty gaining or regaining stability once the daily restrictions are lifted. 

For the mothers of Jeremiah Program, the pandemic has upended almost every aspect of life. The part-time jobs that used to fill the gaps in their budgets no longer exist. The public transportation routes they accessed have been drastically reduced or cut. In every city where we partner with communities, public schools have gone virtual. Mothers are trying to keep up their own studies while simultaneously caring for their children. Our childcare centers used to provide breakfast and lunch; many families are now responsible for every meal, requiring additional groceries at a time when shopping is a logistical and emotional nightmare. 

Many of our moms feel like they were finally gaining momentum, only to have everything they were working for come to a halt. But they’re facing this moment with the grit and resiliency that their journeys have demanded. They’ve been through hard times before. 

Although these challenges are unprecedented, our response as an organization is firmly anchored in our core values. Our leadership is committed to making sure all of our families are safe. No one will lose housing. No one will go hungry. All of our staff will be leveraged and utilized. We will continue to remind our mothers of their power, their resilience, and that they are still experts within their lives.

On a day-to-day basis, this means our staff assessing urgent needs and determining how we can respond to them in scalable ways. It means putting together structures and systems that allow us to be responsive. It means ensuring that our moms get groceries, get diapers, get cleaning supplies and baby wipes. It means keeping the lines of communication open so our families know that we’re here to advocate for them. 

We’re leaning into our mission, and we’re also pivoting to the future. Right now, we have committees working on new digital programming that will deliver Empowerment, family coaching, and supplemental early childhood development programming through hybrid learning models. Everything we’re putting in place is responding to the moment and investing in the future of Jeremiah. When we move out of the COVID crisis, these new hybrid learning models and virtual resources will remain, better serving Jeremiah Program moms and expanding our services to new families. 

Due to the uncertainty of this moment, it benefits our moms tremendously to be able to attend counseling sessions virtually and engage with JP programming after their kids go to sleep. The pandemic has allowed us the opportunity to explore these modalities and build on what we’ve been doing. The new virtual programming will allow us to respond to moms in a more authentic, holistic way while lowering the cost per family engagement.

Jeremiah Program is no stranger to crises or challenges. We understand the urgency of now, but we also understand the need to be disciplined and strategic—because the effects of this pandemic will be far-reaching. More pockets of poverty are being created in our country than has been seen in our lifetimes. We’re taking everything we’ve learned about disrupting generational poverty over the last two decades and making sure the structures we put in place equip us to support more moms and more kids quickly.

We aren’t just treading water in this moment: We are identifying opportunities and making investments that will allow the organization, and our moms, to emerge more powerful than ever. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.” 

Our moms will thrive. Our kids will thrive. Our communities will thrive. And, yes, JP will thrive. 

Victoria on Covid-19

Interview with Victoria on
Covid-19

Jeremiah Program participant Victoria spoke to us from Boston, Massachusetts. Now working from home while also homeschooling her son, Victoria reflects on time management and other skills she’s relied on while she and 7-year-old Victor are sheltering in place.

When did you first realize that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to affect your life? 

I was hearing about COVID-19 through work and my mom; she’s always watching the news. I was just watching—monitoring—how big it was getting, and I actually pulled my son out of school the same Friday they announced that, the following Monday, they were going to be closing the schools. 

How has it affected your life? What is different now than two weeks ago? 

Victor has a hard time transitioning from one place to another or one thing to another. I knew it was going to be a challenge for him to transition from having his structure at school and already being used to what morning-until-the-time-I-pick-him-up-from-school will look like. And I noticed that, through this, it wasn’t just him having this issue; I actually had it. I think I still am working on my issue with transitioning.

I prepped where I would work from home, and I created a structure for Victor to focus on while we’re not in school. I did all that, tested it out for two weeks, and I still find that we’re both struggling. My house is a pretty decent size, but I think that having the outside world be part of your everyday is important to us. It doesn’t matter how structured I made it or how fun I made it for him to be able to go to school at home; it’s not the same. There are pieces to it that not even a well-structured format can make better. 

I’m trying to work on my anxiety and my depression, being home and all. And he has a train as a brain, so it’s continuously going and going. How do you slow that down for a child who has ADHD? 

How have you addressed what’s going on with him, and how has he responded? 

Before I pulled him out [of school], I had to have the conversation: “You’re not going to see your teachers. You’re not going to see your classmates for some time.” And he broke down. He was crying throughout the whole way home, and it didn’t matter whatever came out of my mouth to explain to him why we were doing this. It was so devastating. It was horrible.

But, right now, he works with his teachers. They do FaceTime twice a week for an hour, and then one day a week he gets to see his classmates through Google classroom; that just started last week. The structure was challenging because I’m Mommy. He’s probably like, “Why do I have to do all these things with Mommy if I’m so used to doing it at school?”

So, I think it is helping him, bringing in his teacher on this, and having her talk and encourage him to follow Mommy’s rules, follow the structure, kind of helped a lot actually. So, he’s doing a little better with it, especially the days that his teacher is going to talk to him or he’s going to see his classroom.

He’s still Victor. I can see it in him. He still asks, “What are we doing today? Where are we going today? Can we go out?” He’s still very hyper, running back and forth all over the house. It is sad to see, to have to tell him no, especially when it’ll be for the simplest things, like going outside and finding spring. It’s really challenging. 

What skills do you find yourself relying on at this time to get you through? 

Last week I decided that, besides Victor, I need a structure as well in terms of what personal things I can work on when I’m not working. I’m doing work from nine to four, and so I started listening to TED Talks—I downloaded the app on my phone—and I try to listen to that every morning when I wake up, while I’m getting ready to start work. I also am working on my lifelong goal planner a lot. I also added a book to read. 

I have to kind of ease into getting into it because I’m a procrastinator. So, even if I have a list of things that need to be done, it’s hard to actually get into the motion of doing them. I did create two DIY projects during the time we were home, so that was a little fun. 

How has Jeremiah program been here for you since the pandemic began? 

I’ve talked to my coach. Me and my coach are still checking in over the phone. We decided to do it once a week versus twice a month, so that’s been really helpful. We check in, and she asks, “What’s new?” or “What are things that I’m doing to work on my wellbeing while we’re in this?” She gives me tips, like, “Try it this way if you see that that’s not working.” And, so, that’s been really helpful. 

I’ve talked to a couple of the moms of the program. We’ll just talk over the phone and tell each other stories about what’s driving us crazy, what’s working, what’s not, all that good stuff.

I’m part of the Participant Council at Jeremiah Program. I’m one of the chairs, and we actually had a meeting set up, so I completely canceled it just because it’s really hard to work on agendas and topics … when we’re all going through this so differently. I am planning on checking in via email and just opening the floor to anyone that wants to share. And the [program] has been great in terms of sending out reminders and updates on the COVID-19, so that’s helpful. 

We’re moving to a virtual platform in terms of coaching and stuff like that. They did cancel a lot of the non-mandatory part of the program just to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves and our family. 

Do you see the pandemic affecting your future plans at all? 

When I first pulled my son out [of school], I was only planning on working from home for two weeks. Boston Public Schools announced that school’s going to be closed; as of right now, I think it’s [until] the first week of May. So, I’ve already canceled a lot of things. I had a professional development training I was going to go to in Minneapolis, so I canceled that. So, yeah, it’s changing. Whether that’s my future of next month or whatever the case is, it’s changing a lot, even the way I talk when I’m in meetings. When thinking about the near future, there’s no way to be so certain about it because I don’t know what’s happening or what’s gonna change. And that’s a scary feeling to feel that way—that something like this can affect everything.

I do, however, want to point out that, thank God, none of my family is sick. Me and my son are healthy in most parts. I try not to think that long into the future because it’ll make me more depressed. I take it day by day. 

Is there any support that you’re not getting that you feel like you need?

No, I think that our community—and this is including Boston Public Schools, the mayor, other organizations like [the] Department of Public Health and the CDC—they’re all working together. I’m actually connected to like a newsletter from City of Boston where I get continuous alerts about the COVID-19. And I just feel like everything that’s happening right now, that the community is doing by banning certain businesses from opening, encouraging people to stay home—to practice social distancing and stuff like that—I think that we’re doing a really great job and staying alert and sharing resources. 

There’s tons of people that, from the kindness of their heart, have offered support in any way, like to FaceTime and Victor and stuff like that while I’m trying to get some work done. So, I think that this actually has made the community get a little bit closer to each other and help each other out, which is an amazing thing to see. 

Is there anything you can identify that you have learned through Jeremiah Program that has equipped you for this moment?

Time management is a big one. The last four years I’ve taken a lot of workshops on time management and how do you just get the work done. … I think listening to myself or just spending some quiet time understanding my feelings. I’ve found myself doing that a couple of times. That’s probably why I feel like I’m so calm right now is that I’m in tune with what I’m feeling and my anxiety, and I can tell when my depression is getting worse. Being able to practice being in your own skin during that feeling has helped.