Jeremiah Program graduate pays it forward in 12-month leadership program


December 21, 2020

Shari L. Gross, Star Tribune

Christine Smith was photographed across the street from the Jeremiah Program complex in Minneapolis, Minn. on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.

Two decades ago, Christine Smith of St. Paul was at a crossroads. The divorced mother of two in her early 20s felt she had to decide between being the mother she wanted to be and pursuing a career. Turns out, she didn't have to choose. Smith found the Jeremiah Program, a national nonprofit based in Minneapolis whose mission is helping single moms find success in the workplace and on the home front. The program has served 4,000 mothers and children since its founding in 1993, with seven campuses across the country. With her children now grown, healthy and happy, 42-year-old Smith is the health equity and tribal grants supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Health. She's also working on her second master's degree and is in the midst of a 12-month leadership program through the Jeremiah Program to help build a movement centered on supporting single moms experiencing poverty.

Q: Tell me about your background and your family.

A: That's an entire encyclopedia! I'm born and raised in St. Paul, grew up in the Rondo community. I'm a descendant of George Bonga, one of the first Africans in Minnesota - a Black Indian fur trader, and one of the first people of African descent born in the part of the Northwest Territory that later became the state of Minnesota. I'm a descendant of Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation. I'm Ashkenazi Jewish. My mom was adopted by Norwegian folks. So I have a very multicultural background. We live in a very racialized world. I'm not all Black, I'm not all Native, and I'm not all white - I'm in-between all three. I've learned to accept that in myself.


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