Lizeth Montenegro, a single mom from Dorchester, is looking forward to starting her life as a college graduate after earning her degree from Endicott College with the help of a national nonprofit.
“Right now I’m open,” said Montenegro, 29, who graduated in spring with a degree in early childhood education. “Anything that’s out there for me I’m willing to give it a try and I’m ready for anything.”
Montenegro is one of seven single mothers from the Boston area who earned their degrees with the help of the Jeremiah Program, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that provides lower-income women access to education, housing and other essential services.
“We are a program that’s committed to disrupting generational poverty,” Chastity Lord, president and CEO of the Jeremiah Program, said in an interview. “And the focus and mission is partnering with and supporting single moms and their kids.”
In Boston, the program operates Warren House in Nubian Square. There, staff help women find affordable housing, work opportunities or enroll in college. There is also room for women to gather and study in safe environment.
“There’s a table at the house where the kids can play while we do our school work, so it’s very convenient,” Montenegro said.
Seven women enrolled in the Boston program graduated in the spring from local colleges and universities: five from Endicott, one from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and one from Southern New Hampshire University, according to the program.
Along with helping mothers go to college or find jobs, the program provides a supportive environment to help empower women, Lord said.
“Typically a mom is with us the first four years, kind of through college graduation,” she said. “And in addition to that, they’re part of a fellowship until their youngest child is graduating from high school.”
Montenegro completed her degree at the Boston program of Endicott College, whose main campus is in Beverly. She has four children and worked part-time at The Dollar Tree store in Allston.
She was already enrolled at Endicott when a staff member told her about their partnership with the Jeremiah Program. Soon, she found herself in an empowerment class with five other women enrolled in the program, she said.
“It was very useful, because having all those moms in the class with me, we [were] able to bounce ideas off each other,” Montenegro said. “And if somebody didn’t know something, another mother might know something and we [would] help each other out.
“And I think that was the whole idea of having us all in that same class,” Montenegro said, “Even though we’re there learning, to get our education, we’re also there to give each other support and help each other out.”
Montenegro’s next challenge is to find a job. Her goal is to work with children at a school or daycare. But as it has with other parents, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted those plans. Her children will be learning remotely in fall.
“If I can get a remote job where I can work from our house it would be ideal for me,” she said.
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.