DALLAS TWP. — For Asia Thompson, the Women with Children program at Misericordia University saved her life.
The 24-year-old Union, N.J., native and four other women celebrated their achievements and upcoming graduations at a closing ceremony Wednesday in the chapel of the university’s Mercy Center.
“Today was emotional for all the women,” Thompson said.
She came to Misericordia from a domestic violence situation in New Jersey. The program allowed her to take her two children, 7-year-old Zaire Kent and 5-year-old Kaitlyn Kent, with her.
After four years, Thompson will be graduating Saturday with a degree in English. And she has a bright future ahead.
Thompson is headed to law school, but she doesn’t know where yet. Eventually, she wants to be a U.S. senator.
“I feel my main mission is to help women in situations similar to mine,” she said.
Katherine Pohlidal, the program’s director, implemented the closing ceremony three years ago because she felt graduation had been anti-climactic. On Wednesday, graduates received a university ring from Sister Jean Messaros, who began the program in 2000.
“It’s moving,” Pohlidal said.
She said there are only eight such programs like Women with Children in the whole country. The five who are graduating this weekend will bring Misercordia’s total number of program graduates to 27 over 17 years.
“We offer free housing for four years … to single mothers at poverty level. … They pay (Misericordia’s) tuition,” Pohlidal explained.
Felicia Glover, 28, came to the program from Washington, D.C. She also brought her two children, 10-year-old De’andre and 6-year-old Devon Davis.
“I do not want to go back to Washington, D.C.,” she said, noting her time at the university has helped her children just as much as her. Her youngsters have been able to join Boy Scouts plus play baseball and other sports.
While earning her bachelor’s degree in communications, she said the change in pace from city life to a more rural setting in Dallas Township was “hard but worth it.”
“This program will make or break you,” she said.
Women with Children has expanded to helping 16 single mothers annually since its inception. Pohlidal said there were six families and one home involved in the first year. In 2010, the program expanded to two homes able to support 10 families. And last year, a third house was added.
“We’ve replaced the five graduating already,” Pohlidal said.
Both Glover and Thompson said what they will miss most is the camaraderie with the other mothers.
“They’ve become my sisters; aunts to my children,” Glover said.
Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko