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Single Mother Invited to State Of The Union

President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
Credit: AP Photo

Sabrina Jenkins isn’t sure if she’s living the American dream or nightmare.

She has an all too familiar story, but one that doesn’t get told often enough. The 45-year old mom is an Air Force veteran from Charleston, South Carolina raising her 16-year old daughter Kenya on her own. She has struggled with life’s ups and downs having lost her mother and two cousins in the same year. She suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other chronic health issues, and she is living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Just like many other people, after she has paid her monthly rent, utilities, and medication, bought food and gas for herself and her daughter, she is left with a looming $90,000 student loan bill. Although Jenkins graduated with a master’s degree in Human Resource Management and works full-time at the Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, she says what she makes is simply not enough.

“I make less than $40,000 a year, which for this area of the South is considered a good salary,” says Jenkins. “I never thought I was going to have this much in student loan debt, but once I decided to get my master’s degree, I had to stick with it. I needed to show my daughter how important education is, no matter what age.”

Sabrina Jenkins and her daughter Kenya. Photo by Callie Shell

Sabrina Jenkins and her daughter Kenya. Photo by Callie Shell courtesy of The Shriver Report

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Sabrina in deep thought. Photo by Callie Shell courtesy of The Shriver Report

Her story was enough to draw the attention of the first lady Michelle Obama. The single mother was personally invited to last night’s State of the Union address by Mrs. Obama. Jenkins was “beyond excited” by the invitation and feels that she is representing other women like herself who have suddenly become part of the working poor— college educated individuals who can’t make ends meet. Her story was initially featured as part of “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” a multi-platform nonprofit media initiative led by Maria Shriver.

These Americans have seemingly been forgotten by our government; a situation that President Obama has promised to change. In his State of the Union Address, the President spoke specifically about women like Jenkins and his intention to expand opportunities for more Americans like her.

“The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all,” said the President. “Our job is to reverse these trends.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

One of those proposals is to get Congress to sign off on legislation that will increase the federal minimum wage for all workers from its current $7.25 to $10.10. Until then, the President has taken matters into his own hands signing an executive order to expand minimum wage for some federally contracted workers, such as janitors and construction workers.

Jenkins believes the President is making all the right moves. “This will enlighten a lot of people to know that not every woman who is struggling is on welfare or other social programs. There are plenty of us who are chasing the American dream, but are still struggling.”