Keeping Up with the Hodges in the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood
Throughout this past school year, the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN) has shared a lot of data on its achieved successes, its partners, children and families. While these numbers are impressive, they don’t capture the individual effort and success stories behind each data set. Many inspiring people make up the SPPN family. Two of these individuals are Maurice Hodges and his daughter Shamaurie Hodges.
Maurice recently started Daily Grind Jobs, a small business aimed at helping people get into career jobs. He serves on the Ramsey County Low-Income Committee where he provides insights and solutions to issues impacting low wealth individuals and families. Through his advocacy work with the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood parents group, he’s met Rep. Moran, Sen. Pappas, Comm. Carter, and Gov. Dayton, among others.
Shamaurie is a student at Maxfield Elementary School where she excels in math and is involved with “Rights of Passage,” a dance group by the Cultural Wellness Center.
Unexpected Crisis Leads to Homelessness
It’s hard to imagine that recent tragedies sent the pair into a whirlwind of events that ultimately left them homeless. When crisis hits, it doesn't give you time to pick up the pieces of your life and walk away unscathed.
First, Maurice was working in the construction trade industry when a saw fell on his leg and left him permanently disabled. Though his leg was saved, he was left limping and experienced difficulty standing for a long period of time. He was unable to return to his speciality and the pool of jobs he qualified for suddenly dwindled after the injury. Then, a few years later, Angela Farr, Shamaurie's mother, died tragically.
Maurice went from being a secure co-parent to a single parent facing an uncertain future.
“I was up for the challenge, but I didn’t have access to the right resources and opportunities. I was trying to raise a child with a broken heart on a low income, and I just didn’t want her to suffer any more,” he said.
To get a fresh start and move closer to extended family, they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. It wasn't long before they were in a precarious living situation in the Promise Neighborhood.
They stayed with loved ones who provided much needed shelter. Still, their new living arrangement was far from ideal. Shamaurie had trouble sleeping in the crowded home and did not have the quiet space she needed to study and learn.
Her father walked her to school, but between the exhaustion of homelessness, Minnesota weather, and the lack of adequate transportation, her attendance suffered. The absences eventually took a toll on her academic performance.
Turning Life Around with the Promise Neighborhood
Homelessness, mobility, and transportation – these are some of the factors that drive the education opportunity gap impacting low-wealth, children of color in St. Paul and across the country. This is the story of the ‘academic achievement gap.’ In fact, school mobility has adverse effects on a child’s academic outcomes beyond other stresses facing low-wealth children.
Determined to turn things around for his daughter, Maurice went to the Center for Culture, Families and Learning (CCFL) at Maxfield Elementary School where he connected with the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Soon after, he qualified for the rental assistance program, which allowed him to get a place for him and his daughter. He also joined the Parent Academy program at the school to find out how he could support Shamaurie’s education.
Shamaurie went from being a struggling student to an exceptional one. Maurice describes her with immense enthusiasm: “She has so many talents and interests. She has an amazing imagination and is into theater and performance. She also loves numbers and is great a math. I want her to believe that she can do anything and be anyone,” he says.
But she’s not the only one going places. Maurice became an employment specialist and program director for Mentoring Young Adults (MYA). He became one of Maxfield’s most involved parents and used his time off to volunteer in Shamaurie’s classroom. He recently left MYA to pursue his own dreams: helping others stabilize their lives. He opened his own employment office in the Rondo Business Center – a hub for African American businesses in St. Paul.
His new office has file cabinets, a table with help wanted ads, and a long gray desk. Displayed proudly behind his desk is an SPPN poster with a picture of Shamaurie and her fellow Freedom School students below.
“I love the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. It’s changed our lives,” he said.