The Shriver Report – State of the Union Guest Sabrina Jenkins: 1 of 42 Million American Women Pushing Back from the Brink

Special Edition

State of the Union Guest Sabrina Jenkins: 1 of 42 Million American Women Pushing Back from the Brink

‘The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink’ photography subject Sabrina Simone Jenkins, a single mom and veteran from South Carolina, will join First Lady Michelle Obama as an invited guest in her box during tonight’s State of the Union speech, to highlight the face of economic inequality and social immobility.  Sabrina’s daughter Kenya will be accompanying her to the State of the Union.

Sabrina Simone Jenkins visits with her 95-year-old great aunt, Carolia Gilliard, at her home in Awendaw, South Carolina. Sabrina has spent much of her life caregiving for aging or sick relatives, including her mother.

Photo by Callie Shell.
The Shriver Report commissioned a team of award-winning photographers to crisscross the country, capturing a day in the life of women living on the brink. The team was led by photojournalist Barbara Kinney and included Melissa Farlow, Melissa Lyttle, Barbara Ries, Callie Shell, Jan Sonnenmair, and Ami Vitale.


Here is Sabrina’s story in her own words.  

As I look back over the past 25 years of my life, I wonder how things could have been different had I made different choices.  Should I have stayed in the military, should I have gone back to school sooner, should I have moved to another state?  So many questions, but only one answer: I am where I am supposed to be.

Nine years ago I relocated from New Jersey to Virginia.  I took a cut in pay, but I wanted to move closer to my family in South Carolina and Georgia.  Shortly after that, I purchased a house.  And then the bombshell, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was hospitalized twice with blood clots in my lungs.  This meant I now had chronic conditions that required constant medical attention. Five years ago I decided to finish my Bachelor’s degree and then pursue my Master’s degree.  Well, I have accomplished both.

Just prior to obtaining my Master’s degree in Human Resource Management, my relationship began crumbling.  My financially secure life was about to come to a screeching halt.  This was going to be the second time in my life that I would be a single parent and would have to start all over.  I decided to relocate to South Carolina.  A majority of my family was already there and my sister just had a baby in Atlanta, GA – a couple of hours away by car.  I began my job search knowing that I had to secure a job before moving.  I was lucky enough to not only find a job, but find a job in the field of human resources.

The salary is decent for the Charleston, SC area, but of course there are many financial obstacles that I face.  One being the large amount I owe in student loans, close to $100,000.  It’s funny how so many companies want a Bachelor’s degree plus experience, but still I literally live from paycheck to paycheck because of the need to complete my degree to get a better job.  With the current housing market, more is owed than the house is now assessed at.  I am trying to stay afloat while supporting two households.  I have a teenage daughter that is active in several sports and is currently in her junior year of high school.  So I have more student loans to look forward to.  My out of pocket medical bills are piling up and with each new year comes higher out of pocket expenses before the insurance pays the 80%, which still leaves me with the 20%.  I have medication that I take daily, so that’s another chunk of money each month just to keep my diseases under control. In 2014, the financial situation doesn’t change much except to add more to my plate.  My car insurance will double when I add my daughter to the policy.

Is there an end in sight?  I know there is, but I just can’t clearly see it.  So many women are in my shoes, living paycheck to paycheck, being a single parent and the head of the household, dealing with deadbeat fathers and trying to fill their shoes.  Despite everything, I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I have a great support system in my family, I have a steady job and I have wonderful friends.  It is my hope one day to open my own business and secure my own future, for there is no guarantee of Social Security or Medicare as it looks now.  On the brink, YES I AM, everyday; but I REFUSE to let go!!


Sabrina Jenkins represents 1 in 42 Million on the brink, help us continue to share these stories and #WhatWomenNeed by supporting our continued reporting. 


Journalists can download a series of high-res photos of Sabrina Jenkins with captions at Photographer Callie Shell captured these images of Sabrina for The Shriver Report.

Sabrina Jenkins is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Sabrina Jenkins was born in New York City and spent the first 9 years of her life living in Harlem, the upper west side of Manhattan. Her parents separated before she was 2 years old. She is living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a blood clotting disorder and Interstitial Lung Disease and takes 8 medications, 6 pills daily and 2 injectable weekly. She recently started re-paying her student loan debt of nearly $90,000, while supporting two households.
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