At 103 years old, Sister Jerome recalls how the Great Depression helped shape her future

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For most of us, the Great Depression is a story of a time that once was. We hear tales of hardship and strength. But, for one community leader, the Great Depression helped shape her future and her legacy in our Valley.

“When I was in eighth grade, 1929, the Great Depression hit. When really people’s savings were lost to them. When we found out the banks were closed, no payments at all,” said Sister Jerome Corcoran.

Sister Jerome said families were devastated.

“There were soup lines and food lines… so all the men we knew were going out every day and doing any kind of job. If I can make 50 cents today, that will be a great help,” she said.

Sister Jerome said her humble childhood allowed her to experience what it was like to grow up without.

“Way, way back, I saw what it was like to be in a soup line, to be in a food line… The great baker in our time was the Oles… He had a wonderful bakery, and his bread was only 10 cents a loaf. But you often didn’t have the 10 cents,” she said.

After graduating from Ursuline High School, and attending one semester in college, Sister Jerome made the decision to become a nun and return to Youngstown.

Her struggles as a child grew into compassion for the less fortunate.

“I think that has helped me to see that the poor aren’t another class of people, they’re not lazy do nothings… I did know they were good people, because we were good people, even when we didn’t have 10 cents for bread,” she said.

Throughout her years of service, she has founded several educational organizations in the area, She has spread the importance of education in the inner cities and the corrections systems.

  • 1965: she began a children’s reading program
  • 1967: the reading program was extended to adults over the next 10 years (100 adults were able to receive GEDs through this program)
  • 1976: she opened the Mill Creek Children’s Center
  • Around 2009: she began tutoring inmates from different corrections facilities
  • 2012: she founded Sister Jerome’s Poor Program

“I ask people to realize how important everyone is because we’re all teaching all the time,” she said.

She feels it is important to make a connection between education, the poor and the prison system.

“The situation will not change unless the legislatures pass laws that the education in the cities must be equal to the education in the suburbs,” she said.

On Sunday, April 21, 2019, Sister Jerome celebrated her 103rd birthday. In good health and good spirit, she continues to serve the community she cares so deeply for.

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