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Living Your Best Life Is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Inaugural JP Alumni Fellow LaSherion McDonald and current JP Fargo-Moorhead mom Alliyah Rosales encourage and affirm one another in this moving conversation.

Life happens. That reality is core to what JP does. Every JP mom had life happen during her educational, parenting, and future-planning journey and tapped JP for support to reset.

That was the case for Alliyah Rosales, who had to leave her associate degree program when her financial aid ran out during her final semester. Then the pandemic hit, and she welcomed her son, now 2 years old. While applying for a job in 2021, the hiring manager recommended she apply to JP, and she began her JP Fargo-Moorhead experience in February 2023. Now she’s a student at North Dakota State University, majoring in finance with a minor in family financial planning, and she plans to become an entrepreneur.

When she got to speak with inaugural JP Alumni Fellow LaSherion McDonald, she took full advantage of the opportunity to pick her brain as a mother, JP alum, and career professional. LaSherion — a doula, family health educator, and mother of three — has returned to school for another degree since graduating from JP St. Paul in 2017.

She welcomed the opportunity to speak with a new JP mom, even as she did so while tending to her youngest child, just 3 weeks old at the time. During the conversation, the two women connected on stopping and restarting their college journeys, having family support, caring for small children, and learning to accept help while being resourceful and independent. They affirmed and encouraged each other — and lived out what it means to experience the JP sisterhood.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

LaSherion McDonald and family

Alliyah: I would love it if I’m able to stay connected with JP once I’ve graduated. Do you feel like you’re still connected with the program?

LaSherion: Yes, I do feel like I’m still connected to the program, especially with opportunities like this to talk to you and doing the fellowship. And then this past spring, they invited current moms and alumni to go to Texas, and it was amazing. I feel like the Jeremiah Program is doing a good job at trying to keep alums connected to the program in some way, especially us who want to talk to current moms and who want to be something like a mentor.

I still talk to a few moms. One mom who was my neighbor is a really good friend of mine. So since I started with JP, they’ve been a part of my life.

Alliyah: What did you go to college for?

LaSherion: First, I started out with nursing. But I took a TEAS [Test of Essential Academic Skills] test, three points away from passing, and then I missed my opportunity to retake it for the final time. So I switched my major to public health, and I loved it.

I’m doing public health now, and I’m definitely enjoying it. I’m a health educator. I work with families, predominantly Black families, and a lot of the time I work with our low-income families.

And I’m also going to school for nursing again, so I’m trying for a second time.

Alliyah: One thing I struggle with myself personally is: How do you make time to take care of yourself while also being a great mom and making sure you’re doing well in your career?

LaSherion: That’s a good question. That’s something I’m still trying to get a hold on myself. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s so true: When you take care of yourself, you’re able to be a better mom, a better co-worker, a better partner. It doesn’t always have to be an hour-long bubble bath or going to get your nails done. Those things help, but just doing the little things throughout the day to make sure that you’re nurturing yourself — like making sure you’re hydrated, making sure you’re eating, sleeping. Take a little extra time to do something extra with your hair or your makeup, just something to give you that extra oomph so you just don’t feel like you’re your family’s mule or your job’s mule.

And then having balance. I don’t feel like it’s a destination; I feel like it’s a journey. Finding that balance is just a long journey. You just do what you can throughout the day for yourself, for your job, and for your kids.

And then, when I’m in school — this doesn’t work for some people — I have timesheets, where it has what you do every hour of the day. I was blocking time like, “During this time, I’m going to do this for work, do this for school, take a deep breath, do this for my kids.” And I need that when I’m in school and working because if I don’t have that, I will just slip. It makes me feel like I’ve been productive, and in turn, it makes me feel good about myself. So that’s what I do while I’m in school, but I’m taking a break now. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

“I know it’s a cliche, but it’s so true: When you take care of yourself, you’re able to be a better mom, a better co-worker, a better partner.”

LaSherion McDonald

Alliyah: What was one thing you wish you knew before either becoming a mom or even joining the program?

LaSherion: I’ll say to not panic as much and overthink things. When I was at St. Kate’s before I went to the Jeremiah Program, I was really struggling. My family would help out when they could, but I always just felt like it was just me, and “This is really, really hard.” And I would start panicking and get depressed.

And then I met this lady who said she finished a nursing program with four kids. And I was like, “How did you do that?!” And she said, “I just felt like, along the way, little angels were set in my path to help me. It’s just weird. Along my journey, random people do random things for me, and all that random kindness got me to where I am today.” And I was thinking in my head, Well, that ain’t never gonna happen to me. Ain’t nobody gonna help me. Nobody ever helped me. You’re so lucky. I wish I was you. I was just such a pessimist.

And then it did happen to me. Being in Jeremiah Program helped me. The different mentors I had at my college helped me. My family being able to help me whenever they could — those random acts of kindness helped me. If I had spent less time being so pessimistic, I could’ve enjoyed my college experience a lot better and just saved myself a big headache. So I guess I wish I had a better attitude about things and just had faith that, “Hey, if this is the path I’m meant to be on, it’s all going to work in my favor.”

Not that I didn’t have a reason to be pessimistic, because when you’re a single mom living on welfare and trying to finish school, it’s easy to harden your heart because it’s so stressful. But just have more faith that, if it’s the right path, everything is going to work out. If it doesn’t, that’s OK. I guess it’s not my time right now, or it’s meant for me to go on a different path.

Mother and child seated, smiling, outdoors
Alliyah Rosales and child

Alliyah: How has JP shaped your life today?

LaSherion: It’s shaped my life today because I feel like JP was definitely a big factor in helping me finish college — a huge factor. JP has helped me finish college and have a job where I’m no longer in poverty, thank God, because I was born in poverty and lived in poverty most of my early 20s. So, yes, JP has definitely helped get me and my kids out of poverty. They definitely kept their word when I came to that mission.

I’ll also say the support of JP helped me to have more confidence and helped me to realize how important it is — whether it’s a program or a mentor — just to have somebody who believes in you and who’s willing to advocate for you.

Alliyah: What advice would give to me and other moms who are new to JP?

LaSherion: I know it was always hard for me to ask for help. I always wanted to do everything by myself. I felt like if I did it by myself, for one, it would be done the way I wanted it to be done. And two, nobody could ever throw it in my face. But I had to leave that attitude so that I could get more help and resources to get to where I am today.

And a lot of times in our culture, everybody just feels like, “Hey, you gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Do everything by yourself, yourself, yourself.” But that attitude can make you work harder than you need to and be more unhappy in the end.

So enjoy all the help. Utilize all the resources you can at Jeremiah Program and around you because that’s what it’s there for — to help you and your family get out of poverty and get to your destination. Use everything, ask questions, and take advantage of all the resources. Just enjoy your time there, focus on school, and focus on being a parent, the best parent you can be.

Find this story and more in our new magazine, Imagine!

The power of Jeremiah Program moms over 25 years. That’s what we’re thinking about as we celebrate more than two decades of relationship-building, growth, sisterhood, community, and leadership — and that’s what you’ll read reflected in our Annual Report Magazine.

Learn how program alumni are shaping their communities and how their children, former JP kids, are doing as young adults. Find out how alumni are mentoring current JP moms. Imagine what can happen in a generation — and imagine what can happen in the next 25 years.

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