The Jeremiah Program (JP) disrupts the cycle of poverty two generations at a time. In Baltimore, the program celebrates its one-year anniversary this week having impacted 43 single moms and 94 children, supporting both generations in their schooling with coaching, food, housing, and all the necessities needed to thrive.
The program began in Minnesota in 1993, and expanded to Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, and now Baltimore, Maryland. According to their vision statement, JP “envisions a world where poverty is no longer feminized; where race is not divorced from gender; where career and financial opportunities are not gentrified; and where women who experience poverty not only hold a seat at the table but hold the mic and curate the agenda.”
To achieve this, the organization helps single mothers access and succeed in a degree program and offers them coaching in long-term planning. They help provide their children with quality early childhood education while the mothers take care of their own degrees. They make sure no families pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent, working with community partners to ensure safe housing.
Mothers enroll in a 12-week “Empowerment and Leadership Training” program — a requirement for participation in JP — to help them with career exploration, financial literacy, positive parenting, and healthy living. The organization also provides opportunities for connection and networking among the mothers with one another, so that they can feel they’re not alone in working through their struggles or celebrating their success.
Baltimore Fishbowl spoke with Danielle Staton, JP Baltimore’s executive director, who reflected on the program’s first year and the expected growth in the future.
Staton explained that last October Baltimore’s Jeremiah Program started out with 12 moms, and that has increased at least three-fold in the course of a year. “The initial goal is within six months that [they] enroll in school. And then once [they] opt into the program, [their] children get access to our Gen Two services,” Staton said.
Gen Two services include free single-subject tutoring for children ages 14-17 years, and for younger kids there is free tutoring in phonics and/or math.
“What’s really great about it is we collect information for the child’s teacher and so every weekend they do a tutoring session, mom and coach receive an overview report of a tutoring session and so does the teacher. And so, you’re working together with the teacher on the child’s progress,” Staton said.
JP Baltimore also provides summer enrichment for children, wherein each child gets $1,200 towards anything from summer camp to swimming to Port Discovery memberships. “That’s really something we want to expand. The horizons of our kids and the opportunities that they have, but also their social network,” Staton said. “We really want to encourage moms to explore camps outside of just the regular neighborhoods or places that they know, and so this summer we had about 52 kids participate in everything from McDonough Sewing Camp to culinary camp. Some kids went to overnight camp, and lots of kids did swimming lessons. For some kids, it was their very first real camp experience, so that was really exciting.”
For the parents, JP Baltimore helps them access backup childcare so the mothers can attend school. Staton said they place up to 33 hours per semester on a childcare app called the “Helpr” app, which the parents can use for studying or attending classes.
Additionally, for each semester the mother is in college, JP Baltimore puts $100 into a 529 account for their children.
“We’ve also started talking about tutoring for moms, because we have had moms who started school have been in school for 10 to 15 years, but maybe they need some remediation in math or English. They’ve asked for some tutoring as well. So that’s something definitely in 2024 that we’re looking to explore,” Staton said.
They have new offices they’ve just opened on North Howard Street that Staton hopes will be viewed as a “community hub” for single moms that would be a safe space. She hopes a lactation room might double as a wellness room.
“Moms have said kind of jokingly that we would love somewhere where we could just come take a nap you know?” Staton said. “So, on our wish list would be getting a lounger, a diffuser and one place has a totally solid door where they can close the door. You know, bring the kids to the playroom and take a nap or meditate.”
Staton has her eyes on a mental health program and/or stress management program for moms, too, especially when it comes to being both a single mother and a college student. “Once you go out and you start taking classes and you might, you know hit different bumps or barriers, being able to have that support ongoing to be able to manage those different things,” Staton said.
Many of their family coaches have a social work background, but Staton told Fishbowl they do not have a mental health professional assigned to them at the moment. They can do community referrals to specialists.
One of the aspects of Jeremiah Program that most excites Staton is their early childhood education fellowship. It aims to address the huge number of teacher vacancies, but also getting the women of color who serve in early childhood daycare centers credentialed. Any of the JP moms interested in associate or bachelor’s degrees in early education can join.
“After financial aid we will pay for any remaining tuition and books and then they meet as a cohort to also connect with practitioners in early childhood education and people working in the field to really understand how you can utilize that degree. You don’t just have to be a daycare worker, you know, you can teach up to third grade,” Staton said. “Already that fellowship is really kind of fulfilling the mission of increasing economic mobility and filling this really important need of getting more people into the education profession.”
That fellowship is happening in partnership with local colleges like CCBC, Howard Community College, Baltimore City Community College, Towson University, Coppin State University, and more.