I Thought I Had No Other Options

JP mom Isabella discusses the impact the program has had on her life.

Isabella reflects on the impact of having reliable childcare for her daughter.

Isabella is a 23-year-old mother who lives in Jeremiah Program’s St. Paul, Minnesota, campus. She 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.

“For me, personally, Empowerment was the steppingstone into changing my life.”

Isabella, St. Paul mom
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.

Empowerment is a turning point for many JP moms, as Isabelle explains.

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.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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