Ending generational poverty starts from zero

Feb. 19 – Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is credited with the saying, “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Wise words – but we’d like to add a few more: “Teach a mother to fish and her child could change the world.”

That last item isn’t the official motto of the Minneapolis-based Jeremiah program, but perhaps it should be.

The Jeremiah program, a non-profit organization founded in 1998, targets a very specific problem: generational poverty. Single mothers with no education beyond high school struggle to afford decent housing and quality daycare, let alone school fees. They raise their children in poverty, and many of those children grow up to repeat a version of the same pattern with their own children. etc etc

The aim of the Jeremiah program is to “disrupt the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children, two generations at once”.

To this end, the program provides affordable housing, free child care, and family “coaching” while coordinating a variety of other services for single mothers pursuing post-secondary education. These mothers are empowered to rise out of poverty and thus set an example that their children are likely to follow.

The Jeremiah program operates in seven cities across the country, including major metropolitan areas like the Twin Cities, New York, Boston, and Austin, Texas. In 2016, Rochester joined that list — and just three years later, in July 2019, the Jeremiah Program opened a new $16.9 million facility near Lourdes High School in northwest Rochester.

This facility immediately became the benchmark for the program, with 40 apartments and an on-site daycare. The program can also serve 20 other off-site families, and this year approximately 80 families are expected to participate.

But the program is not easy. Moms must have a high school diploma or GED, and they start by taking a 12-week online empowerment and leadership course. Then they set personal and professional goals and work with a “coach” to create a plan to achieve those goals. The typical mother spends two to three years in the program and nationally, 80% of these women will complete a post-secondary program.

They achieve this while earning an average annual income of $13,362.

Such success requires teamwork. In a recent meeting with the Post Bulletin editorial board, Ally Hanton-Ebert, executive director of Rochester’s Jeremiah Program, was quick to credit Olmsted County, Families First of Minnesota, Head Start and d other local organizations that provide services and resources to program participants. And of course, Rochester’s various colleges and career training programs, and their job placement services, play an important role in the success of Jeremiah program graduates, who are now entering a job market that is in desperate need of eager skilled workers. to launch new careers.

We realize, of course, that Southeast Minnesota is full of individuals and organizations doing great things to help the poor, disabled, sick, abused, neglected, homeless, and hungry. . The pandemic has made things worse for many people, and we urge our readers to continue supporting organizations like Channel One Food Bank and the Salvation Army, which help meet the basic daily needs of families and individuals in our region.

But the Jeremiah program has a unique mission and method that we believe deserves special attention. While it’s too early to call the program a long-term success — it could take decades — we like the direction it’s headed.

Who knows? In the not-too-distant future, the Post Bulletin may run stories about local doctors, business owners, and government officials whose mothers are Jeremiah alumni.

Maybe there will even be a walleye fishing champion among them.

About Franklin Bailey

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