Interviews with Victoria
Victoria talks about how being in Jeremiah Program has helped her evolve her relationship with her son.
Victoria reflects on how she has grown over her four years in Jeremiah Program.
Victoria is a 27-year-old student, community advocate, and mother to seven-year-old Victor. A four-year veteran of Jeremiah Program in Boston, Massachusetts, Victoria views herself as a living example of how extended social and academic support can transform the lives of women who, like her, have tremendous ambition but need additional structure to help turn their drive into action.
How did you become a part of the Jeremiah Program?
It was actually through my job. I work at Sociedad Latina, a youth development organization. I had a coach through my job because I was an alum of the program, and I worked with my coach looking for different higher education institutions that were flexible with their courses. I stumbled upon Endicott College and met with an advisor there who connected me to the Jeremiah Program.
Which aspect of the program do you feel has made the biggest difference for you? Why?
I think the aspect that made the biggest difference is the community feeling. When I first started, I was this single mom not knowing what I was getting myself into. My son was three years old, and I knew nothing of being a mom let alone a student. So, going into the Jeremiah Program, I was introduced to this community of other moms and staff. We built a “safe zone” where we can talk about our frustrations and our difficulties and our day-to-day journey as mothers. Being able to build that community where it is safe to be imperfect and struggling at times, I think that’s the most impactful part of my journey.
In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges single mothers face?
The biggest challenge is the lack of self-esteem when it comes to advocacy. When I first started, I didn’t know that I knew what was best for my child. Through the program, the workshops, conversations with staff, and with the professionals we’ve come in contact with, I learned that no one knows what my child needs more than myself. And, so, Jeremiah Program and myself worked really hard in opening myself up and building my communication skills. That is something that I’ve [also] seen in other participants; single moms in the program have difficulties feeling comfortable enough to advocate for their children.
Talk about your coach. What kinds of things do you and your coach discuss?
My coach is a beautiful person. She’s very open-minded. She provides me with a safe space to express myself and check in, whether that’s about Victor’s school or work or my education. She gives me the space to say everything I need to get off my chest. My coach works with me in terms of setting goals to accomplish or to tackle any obstacles that come along the way, whether that’s at work, school, or as a parent, and helps ensure that I get back on track.
What are you studying in school? What are your long-term education and career goals?
Right now, I am working on a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. I’m actually graduating this May and will be continuing with a master’s program on social work. I want to work in a nonprofit or an organization that’s working with minorities and the community on a day-to-day [basis]. I know that my heart lies there.
What has been the biggest challenge for you since you’ve joined the program?
The biggest challenge for me was time management. Juggling parenting and work alone was too much at times, and then adding a program that required me to think about my future, setting goals, creating action plans, and holding me accountable for them just felt like a second job. Little did I know that what I was learning at Jeremiah Program was going to help being a college student, mother, and a full-time employee less stressful to manage.
What has been the biggest change for you since you’ve joined the program?
Another change would be that I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I know what I want for myself and for my family, and I am more comfortable going after it. The Jeremiah Program helped me tremendously with communication skills and being able to speak in front of people, whether that’s teachers, professionals, doctors. And they’ve also helped me understand that I’m not only a mom; I am many other things. I now understand that there’s more to me than what I do and that I should value myself first and love myself first to be able to give that to anyone else, including my child.
How has your perspective on parenting changed since you’ve been part of the program?
When I first started the program, my son was very hyper, always having temper tantrums, glued to my leg. I did not know how to handle his behavior issues at times. Being in the program for this long, I find myself less overwhelmed with him developing his personality. [It] has brought him to a better place where he can now express his frustrations, and we can hold back-and-forth conversations to work on our relationship.
Before, I didn’t know that was possible. I thought it was, “I’m the mother, he’s the child, and he has to do what I say.” I’ve always seen it that way, but I think that, through the program, I’ve developed a different type of relationship with him. He’s more than just my child; he’s my best friend. He is someone that looks up to me and vice versa. And we learn from each other.
What do you feel passionate about?
I am passionate about learning. I think that’s one reason I pursued higher education. I’m always open to learning new things, hearing other people’s perspectives, helping others, and sharing information and resources. That’s where my passion lies.
What do you think are the keys to breaking the cycle of poverty?
For starters, minimum wage and the cost of living don’t quite balance out in any way, shape, or form. I can only speak as a single parent, so I think reducing the restrictions on childcare and [offering] better childcare assistances would be beneficial. Having different organizations or communities that are helping each other out, providing the resources that one needs to be able to succeed is another possible help. There are so many ways that you can tackle it, but again: It’s all about sharing information, helping each other out, and tackling down obstacles together. It takes a village, basically.
What do you wish more people knew about what it’s like to raise children as a single mother?
It’s not impossible to raise a child as a single parent. However, there are obstacles that come along the way, but you have to face them head-on in order to move forward. I’m not drowning myself in depression or feeling like I can’t go on with my life. I think that my son or the situation that I found myself in seven years ago—being a single parent or raising my child on my own—kind of opened my eyes and made me grow up.
First of all, I want better for myself in order to provide a better life for him. He is my number one motivator to get up every single day, and go to school and work, and make sure he has everything he needs to be successful at school—and gain the skills that I need to be able to advocate for him and for myself and live comfortable lives.
People make it seem like single parenting is a burden or it’s something undoable. But the reality is that I’m doing it every single day, and so [are] all the single moms at Jeremiah Program. We share struggles and we share hiccups along the way, but we’re still getting up and we’re still doing what we have to do. If we can do it, anyone can do it. You just have to be motivated and you have to have that community of people surrounding you, motivating you, encouraging you, and helping you along the way.
Is there anything—about your story or about the program—that we haven’t talked about that you would like people to know?
The Jeremiah Program is not just a place where you take your kid or you learn what type of foods you should be feeding them or receiving hand me downs, et cetera. I’ve been in the Jeremiah Program for four years, and I have come a long way from when I first started to where I am now. If every mom—whether they’re single moms or not single moms—if every family had the support team, or the structure, or the support that Jeremiah Program has provided me, I think there are more chances of them entering a career that can actually sustain them and their family.
… I consider myself lucky to have been a part of the Jeremiah Program and have done all the things that I’ve done within these last four years because I am now in a space where I can really see myself growing. I’m making enough money to support me and my family on our own and even helping others. I am filled with knowledge that I want to share with others, and really looking forward to a future of more growth.
People don’t understand how crucial it is to have these types of organizations in our community—especially in minority communities—and accessible to all.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.