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JP Gave Me Time to Be Introspective and Intentional

For Brooklyn mom Melissa Peña, Jeremiah Program has given her the space to both reflect on the past and plan for the future.

During JP Brooklyn’s 2023 Voices Rising, which highlights the stories of JP moms, Melissa Peña reflected on how the program has affected her life. Here’s what she had to say.

My name is Melissa Peña, and I’ve been with Jeremiah Program since November of 2022.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions [people] have about single mothers is brokenness. I feel that society sometimes — and even culturally — they look at single motherhood as just a broken home, making assumptions sometimes of what the circumstances were for why that mom became single, and I love how the JP program fosters discussion on that and helps us to understand that it’s a myth. We’re able to break it by how we live our lives and how we show up as single mothers.

It’s been a great experience. It’s been a great opportunity to take some time and be introspective, as far as where I am and where I want to go. A lot of times on a day-to-day as a single mother, it’s hard to do that. It’s like a rat race sometimes: you got to get to work, you got to come home, tend to the kids. It’s always just like a daily rat race — it feels sometimes. But through this experience since November and attending the classes — on Tuesdays was my mentorship sessions, couple of hours a day — it’s been a great time for me to be introspective, as far as where I want to go, how I want to move forward, planning for my children, so that’s been great. It’s really allowed for that time to really think about things and be intentional about things.

If we are supportive of single mothers and their children, we’re just leveling up society overall.

I’m working on several dreams. I’m actually part of this great group called the New York Dream Catchers, so I am an avid dream catcher and dream builder. Currently right now and these next couple years, I’m working on becoming a multi-property owner — hopefully here in the United States and abroad. And I’m looking to pivot in my health career into health informatics, so I’m trying to materialize those dreams in the next one to two years, hopefully. I’m actually starting a new position on Monday at my hospital. It wasn’t necessarily through LinkedIn having to apply, but because I had the confidence through my [Career Volunteer] mentor to take some risks and apply for certain positions, I went ahead. There was an opening about two weeks ago, and I already got called back for it. I got the job, so I’ll be finishing up my role this Saturday and starting the new job on Monday.

As far as my kids, what I would hope for them to remember from JP is just the amazing experiences that we had, with being able to come and bring our children to some of the in-person events. They’ve been to some of the movie nights. They’ve had the honorary events when kids graduated and stuff — and connecting with other children and seeing other children as they’re thriving with their mothers, everybody just leveling up their education and stuff. So they’ve had a great time. They’ve had a great time. It’s been fun. This year was the first year they got to go to a real camp and just have amazing experiences, so I’m just hoping they’ll hold those memories to heart.

I let everybody know about the JP program. It’s such an important program. I think the innovation to really come out like the founders that created this to really see the importance of assisting single mothers and seeing that as a pathway to leveling up our communities and then, overall, our nation to the status it needs to be. If we are supportive of single mothers and their children, we’re just leveling up society overall, which is the greatest thing.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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