Florence Amenya came to the United States from Kenya in search of an education for her two young daughters. What she found was grief—followed by love, faith, and community support.
Florence came to St. Paul in 2015 and her husband, who was doing ministry work in Kenya, was set to follow a few months later. He unexpectedly passed away on May 1, 2016, just a few weeks before he was scheduled to reunite with his family in the states. “I went to St. Jerome and told them I needed to talk to somebody because of the grief that I was going through,” she says. “The priest gave me hope—he told me that I still must put my faith in God because He has greater things for me.”
Encouraged, Florence began attending mass regularly. She leaned into her faith and the parish community at St. Jerome to help support her through the healing process and the unknown journey of life as a single parent. She was still a new parishioner when she began considering schools for her daughters, Robyn and Zoe Odhiambo. “The spiritual part is very important to me, and I wanted to instill that in them,” she says. However, the cost of a Catholic education was concerning.
Anne Gattman, Principal at St. Jerome School, approached Florence after mass one Sunday and pointed her to the AIM Higher Foundation. “I applied and Robyn got the $1,000 for the first year, and I was like, ‘Oh!’” she says. “Then, the next year, when Zoe was going to join kindergarten, she also got a scholarship. It just made everything easier.”
With two Aim Higher Scholarships and the support of Ms. Gattman and other school administrators, both the Odhiambo girls have attended St. Jerome School since—and they are flourishing.
“St. Jerome has been a blessing to us,” says Florence. “They look at your needs and they’re always willing to help your child do better.” Last year, when Robyn was falling behind in math, Ms. Gattman put an announcement in the staff room and four teachers volunteered to help tutor. Florence—and her children—also appreciate the school’s dedication to religion. “Robyn and Zoe love that they’re taught about life and the saints,” she says. “Their favorite part is knowing that the saints were just regular people like us and then they became saints.”
As a single mother with two kids, Florence is grateful for the support of her family, her church, the AIM Higher Foundation, and her second family at St. Jerome. “AIM Higher filled a gap that I could never fill,” she says. “My children feel like they’re at home every time they go to St. Jerome. And I love that what we believe in is what the school believes in. God comes first and everything follows.”
—Emily Sefton and Claire Stein