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Single mothers move into Jeremiah Program, work toward better lives

One organization in Austin is helping a group of women blaze new trails for themselves and their families.

AUSTIN — While some people spent their Labor Day Weekend shopping or enjoying barbecue, Cristina Guajadro spent the day moving. And for her, turning the key and unlocking the door to her new place is a symbol of a fresh start.

"My fairytale life and family had just turned into a nightmare," Guajadro said.

In love and engaged, she moved to Austin two years ago despite having no friends or family in the area. Nine months ago, she welcomed a baby boy into the world. And six months ago, things fell apart.

"I didn't know where to turn. I didn't know what I wanted to do for my future," Guajadro recalled. "My baby was only three months old and so everything was just uncertain, my future was very uncertain."

While scrolling through Facebook, she came across information on the Jeremiah Program.

"We are the only organization of our type in Austin. We're the only one that actually supports the whole family with support for degrees," Executive Director Shannon Moody explains in a video on the organization's website.

The goal of the Jeremiah Program is to transform the lives of single mothers and their young children by helping them earn college degrees while offering them career planning, safe and affordable housing and early childhood education for their children.

The woman are also required to take empowerment and life skills classes, plus complete a 12-week program before they can even apply for the program.

"I'm going to be very honest, it's very difficult," said Guajadro. "It's like therapy. And so there's a lot of processing, there's a lot of things they hold you accountable for. There's just a lot of things you have to look at and realize so you can move forward."

Guajadro literally moved forward over Labor Day weekend. She was one of four women accepted into the program who moved onto the Jeremiah campus.

"I'm amazed at how many people in the community are involved with the Jeremiah Program, believe in what they're doing, it just makes me feel that these people see potential in us and it makes me want to make them proud," she said.

Guajadro is studying to be a teacher and hopes to one day give back to the organization that's giving her so much today.