Julissa Pereira tells her clients, “Whatever your goals are, it’s doable, it’s feasible and, if you want it, it’s within reach.” She then adds, “I’ll be behind you every step of the way.”
Julissa Pereira, a 33-year-old B.P.S. in social services student and executive director of Moms on Missions, has set out to empower the lives of single parents through her nonprofit.
Whether it’s helping single parents enroll in GED courses, complete their degree through RIC’s Bachelor of Professional Studies (B.P.S.) adult education program, find employment or find enrichment/sports activities for their children, Pereira is there to help single parents achieve their goals.
“I don’t want people to see single-parent households as broken.”
– Julissa Pereira
A single parent herself, Pereira grew up in a one-parent household. She notes, “There are many reasons why people become single parents. In my mom’s case, she went through a domestic violence situation. My mom is Cape Verdean, she had her GED, worked multiple jobs and was on survival mode. You might say my mom was both present and absent at the same time. She was physically there but emotionally absent.”
“Like my mom, I also went through a domestic violence situation,” Pereira says. “I was absent, at one point, yet present, like my mom, when I had my son. What is important to me is to break generational curses.”
Pereira doesn’t believe that people are destined to become products of their environment. “I think you only become a product of your environment when you allow your environment to hold you back,” she says.
“What is important to me is to break generational curses.”
– Julissa Pereira
Dedicated, hardworking and determined, Pereira established Moms on Missions in 2017. She works with parents who are on assistance and are taking steps to get off as well as those who aren’t on assistance, working multiple jobs.
“Too often there’s a stigma around single parents,” Pereira says. “I don’t want people to see single-parent households as broken or single parents as lazy. I’m a homeowner, a business owner and a college student.”
Before she began working full-time for Moms on Missions, Pereira worked multiple jobs for many years. She worked as an employment specialist for the nonprofit Foster Forward during the day, at Amazon from 11 p.m. to 4 in the morning and bartended on Friday and Saturday evenings. There are many single parents working multiple jobs to provide for their families, she says.
A typical day for this mother of two involves meeting with clients and then getting out in the community to put supports in place for single parents and their children. “After many years of working in the nonprofit sector, I’ve built a lot of strong partnerships,” she says.
There’s a stigma around people who haven’t finished their degree like the stigma around single parents.
For clients who have earned some college credits and want to complete their degree, Pereira is a strong advocate of the B.P.S. program at Rhode Island College.
“I promote the B.P.S. program because it’s for working adults, it’s accommodating, it’s virtual and it’s needed,” she says.
Pereira will complete her B.P.S. in social services in December 2023. Other B.P.S. concentrations are educational foundations, organizational leadership and strategic communication.
“I promote [RIC’s] B.P.S. program because it’s for working adults, it’s accommodating, it’s virtual and it’s needed.”
– Julissa Pereira
“I think the best selling point about the B.P.S. program is that RIC takes your work experience and translates it into college credits. That, for me, is big. To allow someone who has been out in the field to use their work experience toward their degree is amazing. It matters. There are people who’ve been working in the field for 15 years with no degree,” she says. “When I got my RIC student ID card, I sat in the parking lot outside the Student Union and cried.”
Her classmates are all women who work in social service organizations. “There’s so much wisdom and knowledge contained in these women,” she says, “and so much diversity. There’s ethnic diversity, age diversity, class diversity, some are single parents and some are not. These women also advocate for me. If they know of a single parent in need, they refer them to me.”
“By just speaking to you, you gave me the faith and motivation that I was going to be OK, that I was going to be able to get everything back little by little and that I could do this on my own.”
– Client of Julissa Pereira
Pereira says there’s a stigma around people who haven’t finished their degree like the stigma around single parents. There are many reasons why a person doesn’t complete their degree, she says. Rhode Island College knows that your experiences outside of school is “school” and that the experiences you have as a professional in the field is not wasted time, but value added to your life.
Undoubtedly, Pereira is leaving an indelible imprint on the lives of adults. After arranging a meeting with her first client at IHop and subsequently signing the client up for GED classes, her client wrote to Pereira to thank her:
“Before I met you, I was in a very low place in my life. I had lost everything and everyone and only had my babies. I was ready to give up. But then we met at IHOP and by just speaking to you, you gave me the faith and motivation that I was going to be OK, that I was going to be able to get everything back little by little and that I could do this on my own. I still have a lot of work and accomplishments to get done for my babies but I know with your guidance and support I’ll make it…”