Jessica’s story originally appeared in our 2012 Annual Report.
Sometimes it’s just about fueling the passion. Jessica is no stranger to hard work. She and her six siblings were raised by a single mother. She recalls watching her mother struggle, but she was able to keep all the kids together. When Jessica became pregnant in high school with her son, she could have easily stumbled into the same cycle of poverty that she had been in during her childhood. Instead, a fire was ignited. Jessica moved out at 17 years old, finished high school, worked and completed her Associate’s in Business Administration and Bachelor’s in Sociology. In addition to her son, Jessica had three girls, the bulk of the time raising them as a single mother. “I’m a very strong woman and I have my faith,” states Jessica. “I know everything is going to be ok and what’s not ok, I make ok. As a single mother, you don’t have time to let things fall down.” Jessica has plans to continue her education with her ultimate goal being her doctorate.
Jessica’s ambition extends beyond her education – “it’s always been a dream of mine to own a home. I want to break the stereotypes. My mom couldn’t make it, but I know that I will.” And with that ambition, Jessica looked into Catholic Charities’ First Time Homebuyer Program (FTHB) and began attending the preliminary homebuyer workshops. It was at these meetings that Jessica met her lender from Elmira Savings Bank and learned the ins and outs of owning her first home. Jessica credits Jane Sokolowski, FTHB Housing Counselor, and the FTHB Program for her success, “they made this dream a reality.”
On Jan 25, 2013, Jessica and her four children stepped through the threshold of their new home. When asked “what does it mean to you to own your home?” she answered, “Stability, security, a place of belonging and a step up for my children.” It took Jessica a year to find her home, but with the guidance and support provided by the FTHB program, she was successful.
When asked about the FTHB program, Jessica responded, “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful program! I was so impressed with the workers. They were so welcoming. I was really worried at one point because I didn’t know much about this process. But Jane was there. She was such a wonderful inspiration for me.”
What’s even more impressive is the ripple effect Jessica will have on our community. As a Family Advocate with the Economic Opportunity Program (EOP) in Elmira, she ambitiously works to help children and their families. Jessica also wants to take that mentality further in the community by planning to hold summer block parties in her neighborhood as an opportunity to meet and motivate her neighbors. Jessica emphasizes, “I see the future. I don’t see it for what it is now; I see it for what it’s going to be. And I want to be a part of that.” The work of Catholic Charities is about meeting people where they’re at. For Jessica, it was about fanning the flame that already existed and adding guidance and support when she needed it the most.