DALLAS TWP. — Leora Levy keeps dreams in her little room: An elevated bed with a stuffed unicorn on top and a play space below hidden by cloth flaps decorated to simulate a castle.
The 6-year-old didn’t show those dreams to Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday when he visited the house Leora and mom Rachel Ahearn share with several other single-parent families at Misericordia University, but she did give him a giant thank you card with a drawing of a colorful tree.
“My mom made it,” She said to the towering, grey-bearded gent, “But I did all the pink stuff.” Then, after he seemed to miss the most important part, she barked an order. “Read the top!”
Wolf, who came to the Moffat House to push his new proposal to help more single moms like Rachel, dutifully read “Planting seeds for the future,” then beamed down at the precocious pink-lover. “Is that you?”
Wolf made the day — perhaps the entire year — for many at Misericordia when he offered a shout out to the university during his annual budget address on Tuesday. He held up the school’s Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program as a model of how the right program can lift single mothers out of poverty and into the working world — and in turn, open new doors for the dreaming children they are raising alone.
The Democrat came to the Moffat House — the newest of three homes for 16 single moms earning their degrees at Misericordia — to push his proposed “Parent Pathway” initiative, including $5 million to launch similar programs like the one at Misericordia statewide. “It’s a shameless attempt to piggy back on this,” he quipped during a short speech following a tour of the first floor of the house.
Along with meeting Leora and Rachel — who praised the program for helping her earn a degree she could not afford while struggling on her own — Wolf chatted with Rochelle-Jade Scott and daughter Sky, Stephanie Pagan and her daughter Miya, and several members of the program advisory board.
Born on the island of Jamaica and raised in Long Island, New York, Rochelle laughed when admitting she learned of the Women with Children program through Google after realizing she “couldn’t afford to live in Long Island.” Though she had first thought of getting into medicine, she said that seeing the value of Misericordia’s program, she switched to business administration in hopes of launching a similar program elsewhere.
Stephanie seemed almost overwhelmed at times, admitting after Wolf left her daughter’s little bedroom that “We’re all pretty excited, it’s not too often you have government officials come to your home.” On her daughter’s bed rested a rectangular pillow with “Never grow up” embroidered in gold.
Is that for her or Miya?
“Both,” Stephanie laughed.
Misericordia’s program helps single mothers at or near poverty by providing a full range of services so they can complete their college degrees. Wolf noted several times it is one of only eight such programs nationwide, and that investing in similar programs wasn’t just the morally right thing to do, “it’s the smart thing to do.
“If we don’t do it we’re going to spend more money later,” he said, noting the program not only helps the women become well-trained members of the state’s workforce, but greatly increases the odds the children will go to college, breaking the poverty of cycle in the family for good.
Wolf relished it every time students from out of state told him they plan to stay here after graduation. But he may have pushed a bit too far when he asked one woman from New Jersey to list what his state has that the Garden State lacks.
“More potholes,” she shot back, prompting a loud round of laughter.
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Misericordia University is holding a “Pathways out of Poverty” conference May 22, in partnership with Aetna Better Health.
“It is our goal to raise awareness on the impact of poverty upon a multitude of systems,” media release announcing the conference says,” highlight effective programs and create new collaborations among them.”
For more information, contact Katherine Pohlidal, director of the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program, 570-674-6728, or email [email protected]
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish