Isabella

Interviews with Isabella

Isabella explains how Empowerment has positively influenced her life at Jeremiah Program and beyond. 

Isabella talks about how Jeremiah Program childcare benefits both her and her 3-year-old daughter. 

Meet Isabella, a 23-year-old mother who lives in Jeremiah Program’s St. Paul, Minnesota, campus. Isabella came to Jeremiah Program when her daughter was just a few months old. Although she was excited about becoming a mother, her life circumstances at the time felt like a dead end, and she was uncertain about what kind of life she’d be able to create for her child. Jeremiah Program not only opened doors of opportunity for Isabella—it fostered her belief in her ability to open new doors for herself. 

Why did you decide to become a part of the Jeremiah Program?

I was about maybe two or three months pregnant when I had a family member who was going through their own kind of struggles. My mom was on Google and she was just typing in different housing programs for that family member, and then she stumbled on Jeremiah Program and read through it and was like, “Oh my goodness, this would be perfect for you!” 

I thought, “Okay, what’s the harm in looking at the website?” So, I looked at the website and saw that the program was something for single mothers who wanted to go back to school. At the time, though, I had never considered going back to school. I graduated from high school in 2014 and I tried college once. It wasn’t going well. And, so, it was really a scary thought to go back to school. But, when I saw that being in school was a requirement to be a part of the Jeremiah Program, it honestly pushed me to enroll because, at the time, it was kind of like, “What are my other options? What else can I even do right now? I’m living at home with my parents. Do I really want to stay with them as a single mom and try to raise my baby in that environment?” I thought, “If I have to go back to school to be a part of this program, then I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.”

Initially, I decided to be a part of Jeremiah Program and look into it because I felt like I really had no other options. But once I got more involved in the program and [went] through the admissions process, I slowly started to realize that maybe this really would be something that would be good for me in the end.

Which aspect of the program do you feel has made the biggest difference for you?

It really is a unique program because it has so many awesome benefits to it. The aspects that have been really important for me are the education part of it, the child development center that we have on campus, and the fact that they provide affordable and safe housing. I think those are the top three for me. 

The education really does force me to take a look at myself, figure out a plan for myself, and take myself further. It gives me an identity outside of being a mom and developing myself professionally and personally and creatively. So, that’s really cool. And then the child development center, having the daycare here on campus, is really helpful. I just go from the second floor to the first floor to drop [my daughter] off and it’s really convenient. The teachers here at the St. Paul campus are amazing. My daughter was in the infant room and just moved into the toddler room, and I’ve had a great experience so far in both of the rooms. There’s a convenience and there’s a quality of education there that I don’t know if I would find at another daycare.

And then the safe and affordable housing gives me a lot of independence. If it weren’t for Jeremiah Program, I wouldn’t be able to afford being on my own right now. Being able to have a home that I can come to and have for my daughter really allows me to expand on other areas of my life and save money. Otherwise, in regular housing, I would be putting all my money into rent. It just helps me not to struggle as much financially, and it really is a safe place to live. And I like the fact that I don’t have to depend on anyone else for my housing situation.

What kinds of things do you and your coach discuss? What have been some of the most meaningful takeaways from those conversations?

The relationship that me and my coach have right now is just trying to stay consistent, check up on what I have already done, and tweak anything that I need to improve. It’s a very professional relationship that helps keep me on track and it reminds me to do things. Like if I forgot, “Oh yeah, I have to make that appointment,” she’ll ask me about it because the weekend before she’s writing down all the things that I need to get done in the week. It really helps keep me accountable for the things that I have to do. I would just say it’s almost like a doctor’s checkup, like, “How have things been? And do you need anything from me?” It’s a collaborative approach to staying on task. 

Can you describe the Empowerment program and talk about how it has influenced you? 

Empowerment is a part of the admissions process; [it] is required of every participant who is planning to join the Jeremiah Program. Empowerment is a 16-week-long program (at least when I did it). We would meet weekly on a Thursday night and we had two facilitators. 

Basically, Empowerment is what it sounds like—meant to empower the moms coming in and to prepare them for the work that they’re about to do. For me, personally, Empowerment actually was the steppingstone into changing my life.

When I started Empowerment, I was so resistant to it. I was like, “This this is bologna. This is the typical, like, ‘Oh, yay, girl power!’ without any substance.” I was not vibing at all. But, honestly, the more the weeks went on and the more I tried to open my mind to what they were offering, the more my actual way of thinking started to change.

It’s very easy to go into Empowerment with a closed mind because a lot of the moms are coming from places of struggle. I, myself, when I entered the admissions process for Jeremiah, I was in the middle of like a really toxic relationship, so it was just hard for me. Empowerment is meant to undo that. 

Something that I remember very vividly is [that] the core value of a person is something that can never be taken away. You are born with it. I believe the acronym is L.I.V. and it means lovable, important, and valuable. Every person is born to be lovable and with importance and that they are valued. That was one of the first things they introduced to us, and that sets you up for pretty much what the rest of Empowerment is. 

I would say that it’s definitely a type of a therapy. It’s not like an academic class by any means. It involves a lot of emotional work, a lot of spiritual work, and healing. It comes from the inside out. It started a lot of the foundational work that I’m continuing to do now in terms of breaking away from toxic relationships, thinking of myself as a powerful woman who can do anything. I’m not trying to exaggerate, but it really was life changing. Because of Empowerment, I was able to start steps to leave an abusive relationship. Empowerment’s no joke. It can get hot and heavy in there, and I feel like, for me, it was a safe space to start to let go of a lot of hurt, a lot of trauma, and work my way around it and become a better person for myself and for my family and for my daughter.

It’s a very comprehensive program. It’s something that really hits hard for some people and does a lot of good work for the rest of the time that we have here, and even past Jeremiah. I definitely use some of the tools that I learned in Empowerment now, still. That was something that I didn’t expect—to have that experience going into the program. But I’ll definitely say that I know why they do it now. I think it’s a really important part of what Jeremiah is. 

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nailah

Interviews with Nailah

Nailah talks about her experience with
the Jeremiah Project childcare center.

Nailah talks about the benefits of the
Jeremiah Project empowerment program.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as a single mother?  

With my daughter, I experienced premature labor, and that was totally unexpected. And with her diagnosis or her being hospitalized soon after delivery, birth, I had to stop working, stop everything I had to do—like going to school, going to work—and fully concentrate on her, because she needed aftercare and a lot of services when she was discharged from the hospital. 

That type of experience was very different for me because I had to rely on my partner financially. And that also put a strain in our relationship. I experienced domestic violence as well. 

From then on, I just was in a dark place because I didn’t have anybody to depend on, to actually give me good advice … like a good support system. I was embarrassed to tell my family what I was going through with my children’s father. So, I finally left the situation. I left with nothing, just my kids and our documents. I just had to start from scratch.

How did you become involved in Jeremiah Program?

I was referred through my therapist because I was going through past traumatic experiences. I was so sick and tired of just staying in the house and dealing with my issues. I just wanted to focus on myself. And I asked my therapist about a program I could join—because we did talk about goals—and one of my goals was to go to school.

Luckily, she had come across the flier about Jeremiah Program. And what caught my eye was that they [focus on] ending poverty [two] generation[s] at a time. [T]hat’s what really interests me in the program.

In your experience, what are the keys to breaking the cycle of poverty?

Education, understanding how money works, and using that knowledge with your own experience. Changing your mindset and being willing to utilize resources to assist in upward mobility.

Which aspect of the Jeremiah Program has made the biggest difference for you?

[T]he program was curated for us having an empowerment course from the beginning. It made me realize who I am as an individual. I’m capable of doing anything, you know? And [it] made me believe that I’m strong, going through challenges. And it really made me aware of my confidence, my strength, and how far I’ve come. So that empowerment really, really helped me a lot mentally. Mindfulness. Personal development.

How has having access to childcare influenced your ability to pursue your goals?

The volunteers that watch the kids are very trustworthy, so I have nothing to worry about. I can just focus what I have to do, and it gives me a good space to actually put myself first, put myself forward, knowing that my children are in good hands.

They’re very social, very happy to be around [and] seeing kids their age. And, not only that, for me, it just gives me more courage and makes me feel happy that my kids are along with me through this journey, and they’re experiencing the positive aspects of it. We build a new family in this program.

What do you feel passionate about?

Uplifting people because I’ve encountered disappointments, failures, and doubts. With the help of Jeremiah Program, I have constructed this fight for change and compassion for other people. 

What are some of the big goals you are working on right now?

With the support of my family coach, my goal [is] finishing my last semester, graduating with my associate’s, and continuing on with my bachelor’s degree. I plan on operating my own nonprofit organization for women that have had the same experience as me. And also finding a home, and really making a difference in society. That’s my goal. … I feel like I should be involved in making decisions in society.

What you want people to know about the Jeremiah Program?

I want people to know that the Jeremiah Program is a sanctuary to assist individuals, such as myself, to uplift and encourage us that we are more than our circumstances. They are always available to assist us with our needs and to help us keep the focus on our goals

Alyssa

Interviews with Alyssa

Alyssa talks about living in an apartment with other Jeremiah Program mothers.

Alyssa talks about her experience with
the Jeremiah Project childcare center.

What aspects of Jeremiah Program have made the biggest difference for you?

Definitely the childcare and the safe living. It’s been a long time—maybe all of my life—that I can really reflect on and see that I was not living in a very safe environment or was always an environment where I was staying with somebody. And, with young children and in a home where somebody doesn’t have children or isn’t sympathetic to young individuals, it can be very much like walking on eggshells all the time.

Here, everybody in the building is empathetic and kind towards children. We have a locked facility that you need a key fob in order to get into. There’s a review system for any men that enter the building. So, it’s a very safe environment. …

And then the childcare piece is really, really fundamental to our success. … I can’t go to school, I can’t go to my job if I don’t know that my children are in a safe, caring place for the length of time that I need to be away from them. And here at Jeremiah Program, they’ve provided that at a very low cost, or no cost at times, in order to help mothers get onto their feet so that they can go out and take care of the things that they need to, to bring their family up, to rise above. And that’s made just a huge, huge difference on our life.

In your experience, what are the biggest challenges single mothers face?

Single mothers definitely face a lack of support, whether that be financially or just parenting support. Sometimes you get so overwhelmed with just trying to survive and provide for your children and your future that you can’t take that time to pause and really research all of the resources that are out there and available for single mothers to take advantage of, [like] food support or childcare vouchers, those kinds of things.

While each of those pieces exist out there, … bring [ing] them all together in a timely fashion on top of all the things that [mothers] have to do on a daily basis to take care of their children—it is a challenge. To provide for keeping a home and also paying for childcare sometimes—oftentimes, especially with two young ones in preschool—can cost more than any living costs that you have, including food and rent. 

And, then, having the childcare piece so that you can go to work to obtain the finances. Most pre-Ks are half days. They start late, or maybe they’ll start early, but they get out early as well, so that limits your time that you have to be at a job. Sometimes if you don’t have that support on the weekends, you can’t work even a retail job that requires weekends. If you don’t have the support for childcare, for the hours that you need to be employed so that you can provide for your child, that’s definitely a struggle.

What are some of the big goals you’re working toward currently?

I am obtaining my bachelor’s degree in scientific education. My focus is on biological science and chemistry. I’m also obtaining my teacher’s certification for secondary education, so that’s high school. I’m really excited to be able to say that I’m so close now to finishing my degree, and I’m getting close to the demonstration teacher demonstration portion of it where I’m actually in the field. I also have recently—finally—obtained a job that is within the school system. So, it’s perfect for my schedule with my daughter who’s in this public education area.

It’s been really great to see that I’m making progress towards my goal in participating more in the community in a very tangible way to help support the two-generation model that Jeremiah program has. I still want to continue that in my life goals. That’s super important to me: I want to take the knowledge I have and share it with our younger generations and uplift anybody who feels like, “Oh, there’s no way I can become a NASA scientist,” and be like, “Oh, no, you can! Here are some tools that I can give you now, even if it’s just a motivational speech in the classroom.” I’m really excited to be a part of that.

How would you describe the benefits of the two-generation model?

The two-generation model, here at Jeremiah, it’s providing resources that assist not only the mother of the children, but also directly the children. A part of the requirements to fulfill that two-generation model is that, while mother is in school, the children are part of a childcare or a school that provides excellent education and care. They use a lot of empathy and they use the same vocabulary that they teach [mothers] in our empowerment [course]. They use it in the classrooms, and they speak about being kind to each other, and being there as a community. They very much emphasize the community; although the classrooms are separated, they do things together and they have a lot of conversations about how to be a good person and how to be civic-minded, in the sense of really taking care of those around you and the community and being a part of that. 

Our children, they all know each other. They go to class together. We have community events [where] they all see each other. They see each other in their hallways. My daughter, she thinks that all apartments are like our apartment building. Everybody is a community within their apartments. I think it’s beautiful, and I wish that it was that that was the case. She calls our building our “Jeremiah City.” It’s their own little world. They all love supporting each other, lifting each other up; just as the mothers are doing that for each other, so are the children. I think it’s overall a great model for teaching individuals how to be more understanding of each other and supportive of each other. And I think that, no matter where any of us goes, both the mothers and the children will all maintain that idea of what an ideal, supportive, positive, empowering community looks like and how to function within that.

What changes have you noticed since you joined the program?

When I came into it, there were a lot of things in my past that I felt overwhelmed by and I felt like I couldn’t rise above the ways it was manifesting in my life. [Now], I feel more in control of my immediate surroundings and my potential and achieving that potential. Just on a daily basis, I don’t need somebody else to provide something for me, to help me troubleshoot something. I can do it myself and I feel more confident in my decisions. …

And for my children, I think that it has impacted them, the tumultuousness in their early life. And I can see at times where it bubbles up and where I need to still take advantage of different resources out there to help them process that. But, on a day-to-day basis, they’re very happy. They’re happy, and they’re not afraid. They feel free to speak up and be themselves, and they know at the end of the day they’re in a safe bed and there’s no a worry of, “When we’re going to eat?” or fear of the people around us. That’s extremely important at such a young age.

What would say to other women who are considering joining Jeremiah Program?

If you’re a single mom and you have young children, especially who aren’t in school yet, it’s, it’s an ideal situation. It’s not easy though. No matter where you are in life, there’s always going to be challenges and it’s always going to require you to step into your best self to tackle those problems or those challenges. 

Even within the Jeremiah Program, they take care to not do everything for you. They’re trying to empower you to feel confident that you can do these things for yourself in a way, so that when you leave Jeremiah program, you still feel confident leaving this safety net that they’ve provided to help you get to that spot. …

And then also the importance of education and helping you obtain a job that’s not just the minimum wage, just spinning wheels just to make ends meet. This is really a great avenue to move past that and to escape that cycle of poverty and also to model to your children what it looks like to do that. Regardless of whatever they may encounter in their future life, they’ll see, “Hey, I remember when mom was here and we were here, and she was doing everything that she could, and she was also putting her education at the forefront in the sense of helping her achieve a higher income, a higher purpose, fulfill their own dreams.” I think that really puts a great model before the children. If that’s something that a single mother values, this would be just a great program to help you achieve that.

Love to L.I.V. Luncheon

When: Wednesday April 29, 2020 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Where: Fairmont Hotel, 101 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701  

Join us for the third annual Love to L.I.V. Luncheon that celebrates the core values of the Jeremiah Program’s empowerment program which teaches single mothers that we are all Lovable, Important and Valuable. This year we will honor Sharon and Bruce Walker with our Compassionate Heart Award, and Ryan Companies with our inaugural Noble Champion Award.  

To sponsor or purchase a table visit: https://one.bidpal.net/lovetoliv/

Individual tickets will go on sale mid-March.

Amplify Austin

Date: March 5, 6pm – March 6, 6pm

Location: https://www.amplifyatx.org/organizations/jeremiah-program    

Jeremiah Program is gearing up for Amplify Austin, a 24-hour online day of giving starting at 6pm on March 5 and ending at 6pm on March 6. This is a great way to support organizations you love in Austin—like JP!  

Why give during Amplify Austin? As a St. David’s Foundation grantee, donations made to JP during Amplify will help us receive additional matching funds. Your gift may also help us win one of the prizes during the 24-hour period.  

How can you help the Jeremiah Program?

  • Make your gift now or visit our Amplify Austin page on March 5-6 to make a gift.
  • Sign up to fundraise for us! Visit our Amplify Austin page and select the “Fundraise” button to set up your own donation page.
  • Share our Amplify Austin page on Social Media with your friends and use #AmplifyATX and #JeremiahProgram.  

Stay tuned for more #AmplifyATX and #JeremiahProgram news and updates. Thank you for supporting JP families and making our work possible!

Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant

This month, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation awarded Jeremiah Program a $100,000 grant to fund the organization’s new Strategic Growth Plan activities over the next year, officially bringing the total lifetime giving from the Foundation to over $1M. “We are proud to have been able to support Jeremiah Program across a wide variety of initiatives over the past fifteen years,” said senior program officer, Mike Zumwinkle. “Jeremiah Program is a strong example of the positive change that can happen in our community when we invest in families holistically.”

Jeremiah Program’s new Strategic Growth Plan calls for the organization to quadruple its impact for single mothers and children by 2023. Under the leadership of new Chief Executive Officer, Chastity Lord, the first year of this plan will focus on building a strong infrastructure to support this growth and significantly increase the organization’s ability to disrupt poverty, two generations at the time. “This is an exciting time as we embark on a new chapter for Jeremiah Program,” said Lord. “It will take a constellation of support to reach our ambitious but achievable goals, and we are beyond grateful to our supporters like the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation who help make this happen.”

A Jeremiah mom gives thanks

A resident of Brownsville, Eury joined Jeremiah Program in September 2017. The sole provider for her two young children and aging parents, she struggled to meet her family’s needs on a minimum-wage salary. After going through Jeremiah Program’s prerequisite Empowerment program, Eury came to a  deeper understanding of how her beliefs impact her outcomes, and felt renewed confidence in her ability to complete her degree.

With support from Jeremiah Program, Eury completed the admission process at CUNY Medgar Evers College and enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts degree program in Psychology. She continues to meet regularly with her Jeremiah Program coach, and a supportive community of other single moms pursuing post-secondary education. This community was there for Eury when her brother suddenly died. Jeremiah Program New York’s Executive Director, Shivonne C. McKay, a former minister, officiated the homegoing ceremony.

Through relationships built during her time with Jeremiah program, Eury has obtained a better-paying job that allows her to comfortably afford school, support her family, and even start her own catering business.

After completing her degree in May of 2020, she plans to get her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Education, with the hope of one day opening her own holistic, all-natural cafe. She also hopes to one day use the skills she developed through her education and participation in Jeremiah Program to help other families whose strengths have been obscured by poverty.

We invite the media to attend our Thanksgiving Dinner Event to meet Eury and other families, and to find out what they are thankful for.

Thursday, November 14

The Greg Jackson Center

519 Rockaway Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11212

If you are a member of the media and would like to RSVP or to learn more about Jeremiah Program New York, call 929-443-1042 or email ssmithbranch@jeremiahprogram.org.

 The facts

  • The Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY has one the highest concentrations of public housing in the nation.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of all Brownsville households are headed by single mothers and over half (52.8%) of all children live in poverty.
  • Post-secondary graduation rates for female college students and black college students in Brownsville are especially low – 22% and 17% respectively.

What we do

  • As a two-generation (2Gen) program, Jeremiah Program recognizes that the well-being of single mothers and their children is connected and must be addressed simultaneously in order for families to reach their full potential.
  • Our holistic program focuses on five key agents of family prosperity: 1) career-track college education; 2) empowerment and life skills training; 3) quality early childhood education; 4) safe, affordable housing; and 5) a supportive community.

Thank you to our supporters and grant partners

Support from our generous donors and partners ensures the future of the Jeremiah Program.

Grants provide important funding for the initiatives that keep us strong and innovative.

Deep gratitude goes to our grant partners. Each of these organizations supports our mission to end the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time, through a grant of $10,000 or more.

 

Farewell Remarks for Gloria Perez

Message from Michael O’Connel, Jeremiah Program Founder

“Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you in exile. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being, you are seeking your own.”

This quote from the 29th chapter of the prophet Jeremiah marks the conception of an idea in the fall of 1991.

The idea that was conceived then, is now a national, if not an international, beacon of hope for lower-income, single-parent families. The idea had a long seven-year gestation, aided and guided by hundreds of eager and generous female and male “midwives”, “doulas”, until it was born on New Year’s Eve 1998 in Minneapolis

This child called “Jeremiah” was born to a mother named Gloria, who like her own mother, had to struggle to raise her own family, having lost her husband at an early age. But Gloria did it, with the help of a village, an ever-growing village of generous volunteers here locally in the Twin Cities and nationally; spreading to Fargo, North Dakota, Austin, Texas,  Boston, Massachusetts, New York and soon too Rochester, Minnesota—and destined to be in many other places in the US and beyond.

Gloria is a leader, I believe, chosen by God, a “b’shert”, a Yiddish word that means “meant to be.”

Gloria helped to rear this child with her undying belief that mothers always struggle to raise their children and never do it alone, but always with a village of relatives and friends. Some single mothers with very challenging circumstances must have special help to enable them and their children to have a future full of hope.

Gloria has always believed that these special mothers—whom we call sheros—and their children could succeed with the support of her equally struggling sisters—known as the “sisterhood”.

Gloria never saw herself as the indispensable leader. She always understood that she had to seek out many other people with their vision and talents to accomplish this job. Jeremiah was created, at times with great struggles, and sometimes with competing ideas, but that is characteristic of the birth and rearing of all children.

Gloria has always understood that life is radically relational—that all human enterprise is interdependent. Any human endeavor must recognize that the sharing of many gifts is a fundamental determinant of success

Gloria is a gifted listener. She gets it why God gave us two ears and one mouth. She wants to know what you think and how that can make the greater good happen.

Gloria, after 20 years, it is time to let your child go and trust that she and her children will succeed in the world. We have now come to that time of turning that child over to others who will understand they too must give back of the gifts they have been given.

Gloria, you have been the valiant, gifted, generous mother of Jeremiah.

We thank you for all that you have done to raise your child, along with the village, to bring more hope to more struggling mothers and their children! In the future, thousands of Jeremiah children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank you for your loving care and dedication.

We end with another quote from Jeremiah the Prophet, and a prayer of thanksgiving to God for you and a blessed hope for your future:

For I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your well-being, plans to give you a future full of hope. Jeremiah 29:11.

Via con Dios-Go with God, Gloria.

Farewell from Jeremiah Program

Gloria Perez remarks from her party on June 26, 2109

What a wonderful evening! Thank you ALL for being here for this celebration and for being part of my Jeremiah Journey. I am honored by your presence and I hope you know that your partnership is at the heart of the successful results of the organization. Together, we have had the privilege to walk alongside countless women and children who are living into their potential. My heart is full!

I am humbled by the warm and supportive words you’ve all shared. Thank you Jenny Edstrom, of Little Box Social and Peter Germann, of Germann Consulting Group, for making the video possible!

Michael, John, Ashley, Ethelind and T. Mychael, thank you for all honoring me with your words and presence tonight.

I want to give a special thanks to the Governing Board of Directors and amazing friends (volunteers and staff) who planned this celebration. You sure know how to make a person feel appreciated! If you could all stand; I’d love for everyone to join me in thanking you. You picked a lovely venue for a party. Thank you Westminster and Tim Hart Anderson for making this possible.

It is a special honor to have my eldest sister Sylvia and my mother, Nora, here with us tonight along with my husband John, adult children and their spouses (Cece and Jose, Eli and Maddie, Liz and Jack and my grandchildren Oliver and Murphy (Rob & Leah could not be with us tonight). Their love and support, and that of my entire extended family, has been critical to my development, has led me to this work and the work I do in the community; they have fortified me over the years.

Reflections on my time at Jeremiah

Even though I am a Latina transplant from Texas, I think I could be considered one of the biggest fans of Minnesota. From the day that I arrived in Saint Paul, I have encountered so many people willing to help me be my best version of myself. Here in the Twin Cities, and especially among the Jeremiah enthusiasts across the country, I have found kindred spirits who believe, as I do, in the words of Paul Wellstone, “We all do better when we all do better.”

As I reflect on the last 21 years, my mind is filled with so many wonderful memories that fall under that banner- we all do better when we all do better.

In the early days, when we were a team of three staff, I used to interact with moms and children on a daily basis. And interspersed between holding a child or hearing about a mom’s day I worked alongside many of you as we strategized about how to inspire the community to join our effort; we’d even strategize about how to keep the women inspired as they parented, worked, attended school, attended Jeremiah trainings, and managed their complex lives. Through it all, I can honestly say that I have ended each day in awe and gratitude for all those interactions. I’ve been challenged, supported, inspired and delighted by what we’ve been able to accomplish together.

A few memories

· I remember Lori Baron approaching me about a clothing closet for the children in Minneapolis. We all know how quickly they outgrow outfits! People would say to me “What a great idea to have a children’s clothing closet!” It wasn’t my idea but I knew it was a good one.

· And when the board said we needed to create a signature fundraiser, Sue Hayes stepped forward with her network of friends, other supporters joined too and the rest is history. Karen Miley, Sue Hayes and I set an initial goal of $15,000 and the honorary chair, Kit Schmoker, said she would not help unless we increased our goal. We conservatively doubled the goal to $30K and we netted something like $80K. That was all you!!

· And I remember our first board chair, Doisey Landry, joining me at a Resident Council meeting where we talked with the women about the responsibility they had to each other and the organization for the safety of the community. Several years later, during the downturn in the economy, we were talking about budget cuts. The women suggested we reduce our operating costs by eliminating onsite security…. they certainly didn’t want us to eliminate a coaching position or increase the child: teacher ratios. They suggested we expand our hospitality services (filled by volunteers) and better leverage technology. That was all them!

· People will sometimes ask about how we expanded to Saint Paul. I’ll never forget that Fr. John Malone, Pastor Susan Peterson and Rev. Linda Loving cornered me at the grand opening of Phase II of the Minneapolis Campus. They told me Jeremiah was needed in Saint Paul and they would be willing to make that vision a reality. Through their leadership and other supporters, I was introduced to Terry Devitt, Norb Conzemius, Frank Sunberg, Susan Sands and so many other community leaders. The Saint Paul Campus is now 11 years old and I know it would not be a reality without that initial group of people activating their networks and sharing their expertise to get the building built.

It is a team effort

I won’t review how we made entree into every new community but I hope you see the theme of team effort- someone tapped someone, who tapped someone, who tapped someone.

A significant part of my joy and energy comes from mobilizing diverse people who share a similar conviction that all people are worthy and when given an opportunity to grow and develop, they will rise to the occasion. Deep inside you know that “we all do better when we all do better!” I love that about all of you!

Like any 21-year-old organization, Jeremiah Program has had its share of growing pains over the years. It is because of dedicated and talented staff and volunteers that we’ve been able to overcome our challenges and thrive. I’ve always said that Jeremiah is a team effort and if I were to call you each out by name we’d be here all night. My key message is that this work cannot be done by one individual and I have deep gratitude for the impact you have all had on Jeremiah Program’s work and on me.

I’ve always said that all we want for Jeremiah women and children is what we would want for ourselves. And to that end, a key opportunity of the program is mentorship, an opportunity to partner with an experienced and trusted advisor to help the women be their best selves.

Michael O’Connell (Read his remarks to Gloria here) has certainly been a mentor for me as have all the past board chairs (all 12 of them). I do want to specifically thank Karen Miley, Susan Sands, Patti Tototzintle, Sandy Vargas, Kim Vanderwall and Peter Germann for consistently investing their time and talent in me over the years- for sharing their wisdom, for listening to me, challenging me and for believing in me. And believe me when I say “Even though I try I am not always my best self!”

After 21 years at Jeremiah my relationships with you have multiplied and grown in ways I would not have imagined.

· I am heartened to know we have such capable and passionate executive directors, staff and trustees in each of our campus communities. YOU are the front-line champions that are making dreams possible for our families.

· I would not have imagined that I would now know, as adults, some of the preschoolers, from those early years, who are now in college and are forging their own paths in the world. What a gift to see them grow and develop!

· I only dreamt that Jeremiah would become a national example of a high-quality 2Gen program. It is a reality!

This journey of mine began in San Antonio, Texas, with my parents and two sisters. Upon reflection, growing up seemed to have more than its fair share of challenges but through it all, my mother’s strength, determination, faith and relentless belief in us is what has made it possible for me to stand before you today. Thank you, Mom, and thank you, Sylvia, for being sources of strength and inspiration. Your love and determination are your legacies for me.

Vision for the future

As I embark on this new phase of my life, I’ll bring with me life-long lessons in leadership, collaboration, humility and empathy; and, I will treasure the Jeremiah relationships that have given me so much joy over the years. I will miss our amazing Executive Leadership Team and the little office pranks, and planks (yes, a little daily exercise is conducted in the national office). I will miss the boisterous laughter of my office-mates and the visionary meetings with the board and consultants about which community we will next explore. I’ll miss the campus tours and the occasional conversation with a mom, a volunteer or a staff member.

But more importantly, I will have great comfort and pride in knowing that we all have a future full of hope. I know Jeremiah Program will prosper and I too will be better for having been on this journey with you.

In closing, I am privileged and overjoyed to pass the baton of CEO to new leadership, who, along with all of you, will nurture the Jeremiah vision and partner with families, foundations and municipalities from around the country to continue making Jeremiah a place for transformation.

Again, thank you for being here today and thank you to the board for establishing a fund (in my name) for Jeremiah Alumni. Our investment in them is an investment in the future because we all do better when we all do better.