JP Alumni Fellow Story: Tiffany Meeks

JP Alumni Fellow Tiffany Meeks remembers being underestimated as a young single mom — and she taught her children that you create your own path. Now she wants to pass that message on to other single moms.

The 2023-2024 Jeremiah Program Alumni Fellows, each many years removed from their time as JP moms, are using their experiences, expertise, and stories to advocate for other single moms and their families. This is Tiffany Meeks’ story.

I am a mother of two, Natalie and Nathaniel, who have given me a purpose-driven life. I was a young mother in college and clueless when I had my daughter, and I knew I was not very prepared to provide or give her the kind of life I wanted her to have. However, I realized that I could not be complacent in my situation and always knew I needed and wanted to finish college. It was also important for me to make a legacy stamp by being the first woman in my family to earn a college degree.

After having my daughter, she pushed my gears into overdrive to stay the course even though a lot of life challenges made me want to give up. I knew she would be watching, and I had to set the example and show her not to give up, no matter what, and pursue whatever it is you set out to do. I had my son shortly after graduating college. It seemed to a lot of people that I was going backward, but it was another shift in gears to keep me driving toward whatever goals I set for myself. My kids are my driving force and push me to be a better version of myself, as I know I am the blueprint for them.

Society often tells us that young unwed mothers are “different” and are on the road to self-destruction. Once I had my daughter, I was quickly subjected to these stereotypes. I could feel the perplexed disposition when I mentioned I was a mom at the age of 19; people often did not know how to respond. There is an old cliché of living or aspiring to have the American dream, but when I look around at my community of many cultures and nationalities, I have learned that I only need to live my dream. I do not buy into society’s clichés and believe everyone has their own journey to live. There is more than one way to get to a destination, and it does not need to look exactly like someone else’s route. Taking a different path creates your own unique experiences. Someone’s path may look different from mine, but that is the beauty of a story. That is where sharing, learning, teaching, and growth thrive.

I teach my children that you have your own journey, and you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, but it will take some discipline and courage to step out of your comfort zones. If you have a little belief, drive, and support in the areas you need, I believe you can achieve anything you want.

Being a young mom takes a different level of mental toughness because you will have many naysayers and doubters and be judged for your situation. I had to be strong and block the negative energy I would encounter along the way. I had my fair share of days crying my eyes out, but in my mind, I knew my children were watching and I had to pick myself up and keep pressing forward. Trusting and believing in the unknown of my decisions was critical. I did not know how things would turn out, but I knew what I was working toward was for the betterment of my family. Surrounding myself with people who believed in me was also important because I needed my village and leaned on them when I needed help, a break, a pep talk, a good crying session, or guidance on my decisions. I do not like to be told no or that I cannot achieve a goal — it fuels me to prove doubters wrong. My motto is, “Watch me do it.”

My hope is that I can use my experiences to give back to my community of moms who are on a journey like mine.

Fast forward 20-plus years later: Now that my children are adults and I have been so inspired by mothering them, I am working on Tiffany 2.0, still pushing to be the best version of myself. As I reflect on all my experiences over the years, I am thinking about what they truly mean and what they have called me to do. My hope is that I can use my experiences to give back to my community of moms who are on a journey like mine. I would like to spend my time supporting, guiding, and sharing knowledge that could help someone else in their journey. I want to learn and engage as a Jeremiah Program alum and a resource.

The hardest part when I transitioned from JP was that I was no longer living in a supportive community with women like me and staff who genuinely cared about my well-being. I did not feel like I was as prepared to be on my own as I needed to be; the security blanket was gone. I would like to help and encourage the current women of Jeremiah to think about life after the program.

JP’s growing alumni network and online resources are fantastic ways to support women who are transitioning from the program. These assets also create opportunities for moms to know what to think about or prepare while in the program. Further developing the alumni network gives JP moms continued access to resources and connections to women who are or have been in similar situations. It is my way of cultivating community and connecting back to the communities that helped me along the way. As a Jeremiah Program Alumni Fellow, I can be a part of transformational leadership and learning, a group of women that will impact and empower a community in a positive way. I am more optimistic today than I was 20 years ago. As I mold Tiffany 2.0, I feel ready to challenge the status quo and have influence.

In today’s society, the lower-to-middle class of America is being forgotten, and many people in power are trying to erase aspects of United States history and culture. There are laws being passed that directly affect the demographics of many women in the Jeremiah Program, and it is critical that we are engaged and challenging these systems that are being used to hold moms back. We are living in very volatile times, and being part of change is my goal. I want to provide value and share my experience to be a resource and make changes in laws, governing, and regulations that affect women like me.

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