Jennine Jeffries is a woman with an engaging smile, a firm handshake and an articulate yet unvarnished way of telling her own story: Broken and abusive childhood home, a frequent runaway and juvenile delinquent, alcohol and drug addictions as she became a popular bartender, a stint in jail.
But her story doesn’t stop there.
With determination and hard work, with help from those who believe in her, with an unfading desire to be something more for her own four children, she has pulled her life back on course. She’s carrying a shiny 3.97 grade point average at Metropolitan State University of Denver, with graduation set for next spring.
Her 19-year-old son has made that possible in part by caring at home for her 4-year-old twins. She wants him to have a chance at education next.
Jeffries has worked for Metro’s Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, and is now an intern at Project Wise, a Denver-based agency that offers counseling and other services to women. She knows who she is and what she wants to be.
“Given the pain I have put my family through, given the pain I have put myself through, given the struggles I have been through, I want a career where I can help those who are like me, women in transition, women who feel that maybe they’re not worthy, or that they have no hope,” Jeffries, 39, said. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
As she prepares for that day to arrive, making the long bus ride each day into Denver from her Section 8 apartment in Englewood, working low-wage jobs, volunteering, keeping up with her family life and her studies, she worries about how she will do it.
Can she possibly make, as a new college graduate, the $40,000 or more it will take for her family to minimally survive the loss of the work support benefits she receives – housing assistance, food stamps and Medicaid?
“I’m terrified that once I graduate I won’t be self-sufficient,” she said, but there’s no turning back now. “What do I next? I want to be the hell off assistance.”