The definition of perseverance is to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland’s very own Jasmine Alexander personifies every ounce of what it means to persevere.

Alexander is one of the many faces here at CEOGC that constantly features a bright and uplifting smile. To all of her co-workers she’s known simply as Jasmine, but when the work clock is done ticking and she’s in the comfort of her own home and family, she’s “Poodie Mae.”

“My grandmother gave me that nickname when I was a baby and its just stuck with me,” laughed Alexander. “I asked her what it meant and she said she has no idea. It’s grown on me.”

Alexander currently works at CEOGC as the Human Resources Administrative Assistant, but her journey with the agency didn’t begin there. “I ended up at CEOGC after volunteering through the Work Experience Program,” she said. “I was placed in HR, which needed the most help at the time, and after a month I was hired as the File Clerk. Then I was promoted to my position now.” Alexander just celebrated her three-year-job anniversary with CEOGC on June 1 and said she loves the work she does and the people she works with.

Despite her successes at work, Alexanders story is one of overcoming, triumph and dedication. She grew up with a robust family in East Cleveland and attended Shaw High School. “Growing up in East Cleveland was good for me; I was surrounded by many friends and family,” said Alexander. “We faced many challenges but that comes with the territory in inner-city neighborhoods. It was the love of my family that outweighed any adversity we faced.”

Jasmine Alexander with her children, Azzure 14 and DeFonta, 9, celebrating Independence Day.

A few months after graduating high school Alexander gave birth to her first child, Azzure. Four years later she gave birth to her son, DeFonta. “I love my kids, they are my motivation and the reason I work so hard at everything I do,” said Alexander. Both kids are graduates of CEOGC Head Start centers.

It was her love for her children that inspired her to enroll in college to get her degree. After trying multiple courses at small community colleges in or near Cleveland, she decided to pursue online studies. “I began my academic quest at Bryant & Stratton College for a degree in Elementary and Special Education – I love kids,”  exclaimed Alexander. “After getting the full-time job at CEOGC, I needed to pick another major that didn’t require me to be in a classroom, so I switched to Sociology and chose to attend Grand Canyon University online. This also allowed me to be home with my children in the evenings so it was definitely a win.”

After years of schooling and working full-time, Alexander received her Associate’s degree in Human Resource Specialization and her Bachelors in Sociology. The degrees didn’t come without adversity, however. “I am a single mother so I’ve experienced a lot of trials,” she said. “So many long days and nights, studying and balancing life, financial struggles; it hasn’t been easy. There have been many times I haven’t been able to get my children certain things or go places.”

Instead of those experiences deterring her from moving forward, she used it as motivation.

“I learned how to become tenacious and committed to the daily grind,” she said. “I’m a stronger person now because of the hard times I experienced.”

With two degrees and a heart full of ambition and determination, Alexander is now planning to pursue her Master’s degree in 2019 for Early Childhood Education. Her ultimate goal is to become a home child care provider and eventually open multiple sites; something she’s been able to learn more about working at CEOGC. “Before my mother passed, she was a home child care provider and I could see the impact she made in those kids’ lives,” she smiled. “I’d like to continue that legacy and touch even more lives.”

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Stay tuned for more from our monthly CEOGC Staff Spotlight feature series.