Lifting Each Other Up
Austin mom Alyssa discusses how JP has influenced her children, her stability and her confidence.
Austin, Texas, is home to Alyssa, a 30-year-old mother of two who found Jeremiah Program while she and her children were homeless after leaving a violent relationship. A stay-at-home mom at the time, Alyssa was determined to return to college and complete her education, but finding herself without housing created what felt like insurmountable barriers between her and her goals. Jeremiah Program, she says, provided the tools she needed to dismantle those barriers—for herself and for her son and daughter.
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.
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.
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 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.
“There were a lot of things in my past that I felt overwhelmed by. Now, I feel more in control of my immediate surroundings and my potential and achieving that potential.”Alyssa, Austin mom
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 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.