About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.
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Expanding beyond its headquarters in Minneapolis, Jeremiah Program has brought its multi-generational commitment to transforming the lives of single mothers and their children to the Rochester area. Founded in 1993, the organization currently runs two fully operational sites in the Twin Cities. A new campus will open in Austin, Texas in March 2017 and ground will be broken on a Fargo, N.D.-Moorhead, Minn. campus by summer 2017. In addition to their ongoing work in southeastern Minnesota, Jeremiah Program has engaged with leading organizations to serve mothers and children in Boston and is also exploring growth options in Brownsville, N.Y. and Charlottesville, Va.
JoMarie Morris, who practiced law for nearly 20 years prior to assuming the role of Executive Director of Jeremiah Program Rochester-Southeastern Minnesota, was compelled to join the organization following years of work focused on immigration, women’s issues, and human trafficking.
“The element of Jeremiah Program that really captured my heart is the fact that it’s a two-generation program,” said Morris. “It’s an amazing organization and I’m all in on our mission to serve the families of southeastern Minnesota.”
She initially joined the program as a replication consultant, working with an advisory committee to help create partnerships, assess the needs of the community, and determine whether Rochester would be a good fit for the program.
Jeremiah Program’s organizational model is predicated on five pillars to assist women and their children: support for a career-track college education, quality early childhood education, safe and affordable housing, empowerment and life skills training, and a supportive community.
These strategies are intended to reduce generational dependence on public assistance and help single mothers move into high-demand, living-wage jobs.
JoMarie identified “the enormous need for skilled workers in the Rochester area,” and is partnering with community and business leaders to help program participants move off of public assistance into sustainable jobs.
To achieve this, program participants engaged in empowerment training, work toward obtaining a two- or four-year degree under the guidance of professional coaches and secure employment through the support of Jeremiah Program staff and their communities. While mothers in the program study and work, their children attend the Program’s early childhood education centers that help to establish the proper foundation for their academic success.
“Waiting lists are long for Head Start programs and it can be difficult for children to catch up,” Morris said. “Our programs ensure that children are kindergarten-ready.”
Presently, JoMarie is working to secure a Rochester campus site with the capacity to house up to forty families, identify additional collaborative partners, and increase program sustainability as the organization fulfills its mission of service “not only to Rochester, but also to its many neighboring communities.”
A key factor in the program’s early success has been in its ability to utilize incubator space at the Rochester Area Foundation, allowing Jeremiah Program to effectively operate while building relationships within the community, collaborate with city and business leaders, and search for their permanent program home.
“The space offered by the Rochester Area Foundation has been fabulous as a transitional space and has been great as a way for us to work and collaborate with other community organizations,” Morris said.
Jeremiah Program has already garnered substantial grants from Mayo Clinic and the Otto Bremer Foundation, and has received significant assistance from the Rochester community to advance program efforts.
For more information, visit www.jeremiahprogram.org/rochester.