Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Caring Causes: The Jeremiah Program

There are few areas of life that haven’t been affected by COVID-19. For the women of Jeremiah Program, a national nonprofit with campuses in MSP and Rochester, that helps families find a path out of poverty two generations at a time, the pandemic has threatened to destroy the lives they’ve worked to rebuild for themselves.

Jeremiah Program provides struggling single mothers with childcare and quality early childhood education, a safe and affordable place to live, and empowerment and life skills training so that a mother doesn't have to choose between herself and her child. With the program’s daycare centers closed, layoffs at an all-time high, and schools going remote, the mothers have had to restructure their lives, working together to remain safe while still moving their goals forward.

Despite these pandemic related challenges, 20 mothers in the Jeremiah Program recently graduated from their higher education programs.

Jazmin, who is part of Jeremiah Program MSP, completed her degree in accounting this spring. She found herself relying on her Jeremiah Program coach in the final months of her accounting program, while managing raising her child, classes and COVID stress:“My coach, Sierra, was great. Anything that I needed that I talked about, she provided a resource—and I mean anything,” she says. “Just knowing that I have someone to turn to, to talk to, that is going to pull out resources for me and try to accommodate and make my life a little easier was what helped me through this final term.”

I had a chance to interview Chastity Lord, president and CEO, Jeremiah Program to learn more.

Q: Why was the Jeremiah Program created? 

The social and economic factors that perpetuate cycles of poverty may be complex, but the solution is not— in theory. Prevention lies at the beginning and the end of the educational pathway: The younger a child has access to quality early childhood education and the longer they can stay on the pathway, the more likely they are to avoid or overcome generational poverty. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, each level of education past high school results in a 32 percent reduction of the likelihood of a single mother living in poverty.

Jeremiah Program is a national organization leveraging education to disrupt the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at a time. By providing a combination of quality early childhood education and childcare, a safe and affordable place to live, career-track coaching and empowerment and life skills training, Jeremiah Program empowers single mothers at seven campuses in cities across the U.S. to support them in curating a path out of generational poverty, for good.

Founded in Minneapolis in 1993, Jeremiah Program has impacted the lives of more than 4,000 single mothers and their children. We currently partner with over 600 single mothers and their young children annually. We work with these determined single mothers so that they can excel in the workforce, prepare their children to succeed in school, and reduce generational dependence on public assistance.

Q: What are some of the services it provides?

Generational poverty is defined as at least two generations of a family being born into poverty, severely limiting their ability to overcome, or even improve, their situations. Families experiencing generational poverty live in constant survival mode, barely able to think about the future, much less take action to create a sustained change that leads to a better and more independent life. 

To ensure that moms are able to complete their education and begin the journey to disrupting generational poverty, Jeremiah Program provides child care and quality early childhood education, access to safe and affordable places to live, and empowerment and life skills training, so that a mother doesn't have to choose between investing in herself and her child. Upon completion of the program and their education, young mothers are more likely to find and be able to afford safe housing, and more likely to have an increase in their earnings.


Q: What are some ways that people can support the single mothers that they know?

Jeremiah Program is grounded in the belief that women are strong, capable, and resourceful, and by overcoming both personal and structural barriers, they can disrupt the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children. If you know a single mom, you may not realize the continuous struggles she faces. One of the best ways you can help is by being a donor, volunteer, and door opener – we need people to sign on to be all three simultaneously. When done in tandem, the impact is transformative for our moms and the volunteer.

Q: How can people support the Jeremiah Program?

Visit our website to learn about making a donation to Jeremiah Program and supporting women who are not unlike many of us ---the biggest difference is that their safety net is smaller or non-existent. I want to reiterate that we need doers, donors, and door openers.

The full stories of Delia and other graduates are available at this link:

About Chastity Lord

President and CEO of Jeremiah Program and a national nonprofit leader, Chastity Lord has dedicated her life to disrupting systems of inequity through a social justice lens in an effort to bridge the opportunity gap. She has a unique mix of both practitioner and executive leadership and has spent two decades specializing in scaling organizations, education, college access, fundraising, and leadership development. Lord has a BA in organizational communication from University of Oklahoma and an MBA in strategy and marketing from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She is a 2012 Pahara-Aspen Fellow with the Aspen Global Leadership Network and serves on the board of Shriver National Center on Poverty and Law.

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