Quotes from Sojourner House Graduates
“Sojourner House is a house of miracles where lives are transformed. It is a sanctuary, where nurturing of the spirit begins, where the process of healing and loving of self takes place.”
“I view my accomplishments as our accomplishments because when a woman is strengthened, her children are strengthened, and her community is strengthened”
“Sojourner House’s ability to link women who are close in interest, outlook, feeling, and emotional pain translates to a revival of souls. We come to Sojourner believing that no one cares, that no one believes, that there is no reprieve. We soon learn we are wrong. Compassion is the greatest asset of the relations that are formed among the women of Sojourner House.”
“It is not just a house of women and children hoping to put their lives back together. It is a house of miracles where lives are transformed. It is a sanctuary, where nurturing of the spirit begins, where the process of healing and loving of self takes place. With hard work, dedication, and patience, the gift is unfolded. Through parenting of self and through our children, a whole life is turned around.”
Nearly all graduates of Sojourner House at PathStone’s Transitional Housing Program enter permanent housing after successfully completing the three to six month program despite arriving at Sojourner House facing homelessness and other challenges. During their stay in Transitional Housing Program, they make strides toward family stability and unification, gain valuable life skills, and maintain their sobriety. They leave the program equipped with a clear, set goal plan and move to one of Sojourner House’s 40 supportive housing units or safe, affordable housing in the community where they receive on-going case management and support through Sojourner House’s Supportive Housing Program and Outreach Program.
Graduates who have achieved their goals, such as attaining academic degrees and professional licenses, gaining employment or receiving promotions, or purchasing a home, are honored at a special ceremony, surrounded by current, past and present program participants, donors, volunteers and staff. The highlight of the program is the presentation of the Epiphany Award, given each year to a woman who best demonstrates courage and determination to achieve her goals. Previous Epiphany Award recipients, wearing white stoles representing their status, participate in an induction candlelight ceremony to welcome the new award winner. The ceremony is an inspirational celebration of women who have chosen to make lifelong changes. In doing so, these women become beacons of hope, light, and inspiration, guiding other women.
In 2001, a lasting relationship developed between Nazareth College and Sojourner with the establishment of a scholarship and mentoring program for Sojourner House graduates who are ready to take on the challenge and opportunity of higher education. Program assistance includes partial tuition funding, help with financial aid planning, advocacy, mentoring, and encouragement. Access to higher education is a gift that allows Sojourner House women to reach new heights in their personal lives and through perseverance and achievement, and inspire other graduates to pursue their dreams. Since the program’s inception, Andrea Juan Allen, Deborah Chung, Tracy Epps, and Yolanda Mitnaul have earned Bachelor degrees, and Andrea went on to earn a Master’s degree. Many other Sojourner House graduates are currently working toward their bachelor’s degrees.
Sojourner Graduate Wins $10,000 Scholarship
In 2010, Willie Jeanne Lester received a $10,000 scholarship to attend Nazareth College!
When Willie Jeanne came to Sojourner House in 2005, she was asked to create goals for herself. One of those goals was to go back to school and get her degree, so she could get a higher paying job. After enrolling and struggling through her first semester, Willie Jeanne realized she needed a tutor. She was guided to the Get Ahead program. Working with her Sojourner House tutor, Robert Zack, and other tutors available through Monroe Community College (MCC), Willie Jeanne went from a 2.1 grade point average to graduating with a 3.4 grade point average and even made the Dean’s list. Willie Jeanne attributes her success to the support she received from Sojourner House and her Get Ahead tutor, “He doesn’t let me down. He pushes me. To succeed in life, you need support. I don’t feel alone because of the support.” Willie Jeanne is also very grateful for her friends and Sojourner House, “I am so glad I got involved with them. Sojourner has never let me down. I am so glad they gave me a housing opportunity.”
Willie Jeanne’s hard work and perseverance also inspired her son, Byron Lester to get his life back on track and take courses at MCC. Byron worked with a tutor from Sojourner House for about two years, graduated from MCC, and went on to St. John Fisher to study Sports Management. When asked about his experience with Sojourner House and the Get Ahead program, he said that he has grown as a man since he began working with his tutor. His mother is very proud of his accomplishments.“I don’t want Byron to make the same mistakes I did.” Willie Jeanne said. “I’m proud of my son. He’s still my baby.”
Due to the main tutor being out of the country frequently on business, participants had to put in extra effort. They held their sessions with the tutor over the telephone and emailed their homework files back and forth. When asked whether this caused a problem, Byron said “It’s hard since he’s far away, but (he) is the backbone of the program.” During this time, Willie Jeanne also reached a major milestone: She moved out of supportive housing into her own apartment in Greece, saying. “It’s a new life and it’s scary. But it’s great!”
Willie Jeanne and Byron graduated together from MCC in May 2009. She earned an Associate Degree in Human Services, and went on to get another Associate Degree in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling so she can help others who are struggling with alcohol and chemical dependencies. In September 2010, Willie Jeanne will begin work on her Bachelor’s Degree at Nazareth College. She is currently working as a Home Health Aide and has been clean and sober for six years.
Cheryl Ellis, the 2007 Epiphany Award winner, also received a $10,000 scholarship to Nazareth College in 2010.
Congratulations to Tiffany Robinson, the 2015 Epiphany Award Recipient!
The Epiphany Award is given each year to a woman who best demonstrates courage and determination to overcome challenges and achieve her goals. These women have all chosen to take up the journey of life changes, becoming beacons of light and inspiring us all along the way.
Epiphany Award Recipients
We celebrate the extraordinary quality in each woman that has helped her stay the course on her unique journey:
2015 Tiffany Robinson – Victory
2014 Loretta Raftery – Diligence
2013 Constance Chisholm – Strength
2012 Kimberley Barnett – Purposeful
2011 Jackie McEwen – Courage
2010 Toni Boyd – Creativity
2009 Lisa Przybylowicz – Tenacity
2008 Annette Jackson – Resilience
2007 Cheryl Ellis – Humility
2006 Alicia McCain – Resourcefulness
2005 Susan DiPiazza – Fortitude
2004 Yolanda Mitnaul – Boldness
2003 Latrelle Mosley – Commitment
2002 Deborah Chung – Courage
2001 Tracy Epps – Perseverance
2000 Esa Lee Harrison – Willing
1999 Diane Hay – Faith
1998 Andrea Juan Allen – Determination