Women’s Wisdom: Jeremiah Program’s local leader shares meaningful mission

“I grew up on a farm, you know. I’m a farm girl!”
That’s what Andrea Hochhalter told me when I asked her in our interview for InforumTV.com where she acquired her determi-nation, perseverance and strong work ethic.
As Andrea grew emo-tional, sharing what she learned from her parents while living on a farm, I couldn’t help but remem-ber the lessons I learned from my own father – a proud born and bred farm boy.
Growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a population of 19 million, I always had this secret city girl fantasy of imagining how my life would be if I would have been born knowing how to drive a truck on a farm like Old McDonald’s with cows, chickens and ducks.
What always fascinated me is what’s behind the expression “I grew up on a farm.”
It’s much more than a reference to a location; it’s seems like a reference to a certain kind of wisdom – a “Farm Girl Wisdom.”
It’s a wisdom that gave Hochhalter the skills and drive she needed to em-brace the challenging task of bringing the powerful mission of the Jeremiah Program – a nationally recognized nonprofit that works to transform fami-lies from poverty to pros-perity two generations at a time – to our community.
As the director of com-munity outreach, this inspiring woman and mother of two beautiful girls is responsible for working with community leaders to break the cycle of poverty in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“I’m drawn to the Jere-miah Program because like me, this program places great value on education, attitude, hard work, life skills and accountability,” Hochhalter says.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,312 single mothers – 42 percent in total – are living below poverty in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The num-ber was 26 percent in 2009, accounting for 16 percent increase, she says.
I don’t know if you were raised on a farm or in the city, but I hope as you read Andrea’s interview below or watch our conversation on InforumTV.com, you will feel inspired, just like me, to apply her “Farm Girl Wisdom” to empower your life and impact the world.

Q: If your life was a best-selling book, what would be the most challenging chapter you needed to overcome?
A: When my first daugh-ter was 12 weeks old, she contracted meningitis. She was hours from death when diagnosed. Holding your limp, lethargic baby during a spinal tap not knowing what’s wrong with her and then caring for her in the hospital for 10 days wondering if she’ll come through without complications was definite-ly a challenging moment.

Q: What empowered you to overcome those chal-lenges?
A: Two things I believe strongly in are nurturing your support system and the power of the mind. My support system and my attitude are what helped me through life’s challeng-es.
Knowing I have a support system, succeed or fail, gives me the confidence I need to tackle a challenge. Believe it and you will be it. An attitude of self-confidence, believing I can tackle a challenge brings me internal strength.

Q: If you gave the book of your life to your teenage self, what lessons do you wish she’d learn then that you know now?
A: Two lessons:
1. Hard work not only builds character, it pre-pares you for life.
As a teenager I would have loved to not work on the farm or wash dishes, bus tables and waitress at the local café, but my par-ents had different plans for me early on. It’s funny though how today as an adult I’ll reference those days when speaking about experiences that shaped who I am.
My personal traits, for example, of determination, communication skills, and problem solving, which have served me very well, were developed through my early “hard work” life experiences that at the time never felt nearly as valuable as they do today.
2. When unsure follow your gut.
As a teenager you fre-quently find yourself navi-gating new territory. Teenagers have to make choices daily that they’ve never had to make before and often feel pressured to choose ways that will please others. Listening to your internal voice, your gut, can lead you to the best choice.

Q: What advice can you give to empower another woman’s life story?
A: Three bits of advice: First, you are center stage in your life and when you are center stage, you define your performance. You get to choose the play, acts, cast and even pick your audience. Knowing you are center stage in your life is empowering.
Second, don’t ever forget you are loveable, valuable and important. Treat oth-ers this way and be sure that you only allow those in your life that do the same.
Last, if you ever expect to receive gifts in life, you must first give gifts. In giving a gift you open your arms and hands. Without giving a gift your arms and hands are not open to receive a gift.

Q: How can women best impact the world today?
A: Women can best im-pact the world today by getting involved in the communities they live in. Community engagement makes you smarter; it increases your awareness and heightens your in-vestment in your commu-nity. It brings opportuni-ties for you to influence, develop skills, make con-nections, help others or serve a cause.
No matter if you choose to volunteer at a nonprofit, serve on a school commit-tee, join a mom’s group or provide a meal and ride to someone in need, get in-volved in your community; you will be richer for it.

Chris Linnares is an international author, psychotherapist and founder of Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she has been living in Fargo with her daughter and husband, Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of The Forum. To refer an inspiring woman for Linnares’ column, email chris@divaconnection.org