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Mom’s House graduate speech presented at the
2013 Solution of Hope Banquet
Good evening. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here tonight to share my story with the generous benefactors of Mom’s House.
My name is Joan Peterson, and I graduated from Mom’s House 20 years ago, in 1993. I’d like to tell you first about what brought me to Mom’s House, about how Mom’s House supported and cared for me and my daughter, and finally, a little of what I have accomplished in the past 20 years.
When I became pregnant in 1990 when I was just 15, I had no idea what to do. I was a high school honor student, and had future plans and dreams. I considered every possible option. None of them seemed particularly good.
After some soul-searching, I came to the realization that I was quite capable of raising a child – but I had no idea how I would manage to finish my education or how I could support a child. It was clear by that point that I would be doing this alone. Many people thought I had ruined my life, and several suggested that I should have made different choices. My father gloomily predicted that I would never graduate from high school.
With my mother’s support, I developed a different plan. I took the SAT’s and entrance exams at Broome Community College. I had no desire to return to high school. They didn’t have coffee, and I was fairly sure they weren’t going to let me go nurse the baby between classes.
I’m not sure where my mother heard about Mom’s House, but when she told me, it was like a gift from God.
Actually, at first I was a little suspicious. Free daycare? For single parents? And all I had to do was volunteer a few hours a week? I was sure that I was going to get lectured, preached at, or made to go to church.
Alethea was born two weeks early, in June 1991. As it turns out, this was pretty fortuitous, because she was just old enough to start at Mom’s House, so that I was able to start attending Broome Community College that fall. As a 16 year old, I thought I knew everything, and that I could do it all. It is only in looking back that I realize just how little I knew and how unprepared I was. The volunteers and staff at Mom’s House always provided guidance and support in a gentle and respectful way. Never, not once, was I lectured or preached at. Instead, they lived their faith in little ways every day.
As summer turned to fall, it began to get cold. One day, the baby room teacher asked if I could put shoes on Alethea as her socks fell off when they were on walks. Alethea didn’t have shoes. She was just three months old, and it had never occurred to me that a baby needed shoes. My family was struggling at that time, and my parents were giving me $20 per week which barely covered gas and diapers. The next day, Diane reached in the closet and pulled out a pair of tiny, soft white leather baby shoes, just the right size. Over the years that we attended Mom’s House, many unmet needs were met out of that closet, but the one thing I have never forgotten was those tiny shoes.
Twenty years have gone by since I graduated from Mom’s House and from Broome Community College. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and subsequently, a Master of Public Administration degree at Marywood University. My father was right about one thing though. –
I never did graduate from high school.
Fortunately, when you have a master’s degree, no one holds that against you.
I have worked in the social service field for many years and have always tried to treat my clients with the kindness, consideration, and respect that I received as a Mom’s House mom. I have tried to ‘pay it forward’ whenever I could. One day a few years ago, a child came to a program where I worked in shoes held together with duct tape. The next day, as I brought him a new pair of shoes, I thought about Mom’s House and Alethea’s first pair of shoes. I felt incredibly grateful and blessed to be in a place where I can give back to others.
Because of Mom’s House, I was able to get a good education. Because of my education, I have always been able to get a job, to support my children, to own my own home, and just as importantly, to help others.
Mom’s House not only helped me to get a good start and go on to have a successful life, but also my daughter, who graduated from college this May. Just as poverty can become generational, so too can education and success.
Mom’s House is much more than free daycare for single parents – it is a lifeline, a step up, a support system. To everyone who supports Mom’s House, volunteers, staff, and donors, thank you. Mom’s House made a lasting difference in our lives, and continues to make a difference in the lives of young parents every day.