Jeremiah Program was founded in Minneapolis, MN, in response to the growing number of children being born to single mothers in poverty. From the start, the focus was on higher education as the way for mothers to move out of poverty into career-track, livable wage jobs and ultimately self-sufficiency. Quality early childhood education, safe and affordable housing, Personal Empowerment and life skills training, and a network of supporters are integral to the program model.
Beginning the Jeremiah Journey
In the early 1990s, Reverend Michael J. O’Connell answered the call of Minneapolis leaders to engage the community in breaking the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children. He assembled leaders from the key sectors of business, education, government, congregations of faith and philanthropy to move the vision forward. The founders were inspired by the scriptural passage from Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the well-being of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your own welfare.” Despite the inspiration derived from the scriptural passage, Jeremiah Program does not have any specific religious affiliation.
Serving the First Families
From 1993 to 1996, Minneapolis community leaders focused on program planning and building community awareness. After Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) donated land for the Minneapolis campus, Jeremiah launched a $5 million campaign for capital and program start-up. In 1997 ground was broken for an 18-family residence.
In January 1998 the first 18 families moved into residence, and the following year the Child Development Center (CDC) opened in a temporary on-site space. In 2001, the Board of Trustees authorized 21 additional residential units and a full service Child Development Center. In 2002 more than $6 million was raised for capital and program expenditures and the Minneapolis campus expanded to 39 affordable units and space for 66 children in the CDC.
Jeremiah’s first expansion began in 2004 when St. Paul community leaders approached the organization’s leaders about expanding to a second site. After extensive input from citizens through numerous information sessions throughout the city, a site-selection committee selected a parcel of land that met the requirements for affordability and accessibility to schools and public transportation. Jeremiah successfully raised $14 million and opened a campus with 38 units in the Summit-University neighborhood in 2007.
In 2009, the Board of Trustees established a National Board of Directors to drive and guide expansion and replication of Jeremiah’s holistic approach. Phase one of a campus in Austin, Texas, opened in fall 2013, with plans to break ground on a permanent campus in phase two in late 2014. In addition, leaders in Fargo, North Dakota–Moorhead, Minnesota, are making progress in establishing a campus in their community and exploration is underway with Endicott College to bring Jeremiah to Boston.