The Jeremiah Program promises single mothers in poverty a chance to succeed. This residential program, with on-site child care and parenting classes, requires a mother to sign a contract that she will enroll in post-high school education while working a job and living by the rules of the house. There is a Jeremiah house in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul.
It is an extraordinarily successful program because these young mothers are extraordinary people. They don't, however, develop without the help of others.
A few weeks ago, while attending a fundraiser for Jeremiah, I was seated at a table with a resident of the program who was going to share her experiences. She was about 20 years old with one young child and was full of enthusiasm. After giving well-deserved praise to the staff of Jeremiah, she continued that she has received considerable help from her school, the University of St. Thomas, where she is majoring in English.
She identified two people at St. Thomas who have been her support and her mentors: Sr. Sharon Howell, Assistant Dean of Students, and Dr. Brenda Powell, English department. You would have thought these St. Thomas educators had written her speech. Such was the praise heaped upon them.
Driving home that evening I was very proud of being part of the St. Thomas community. I also wondered if Sr. Sharon and Dr. Powell had any idea how significant each has been in this young woman's life. I am still wondering, but now at the start of another academic year my wonder is: Do any of us appreciate what an impact we have on the lives of students and the privilege of doing so?