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Each year, five women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Womenâ€™s Club for Career Womenâ€™s Week. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Womenâ€™s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Womenâ€™s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects.
PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” Jessica Newcome can tell you first-hand that being a single parent isn't easy.
But that doesn't stop her from overcoming the challenges she faces on a day-to-day basis.
"I think it's just sheer determination," she said. "I want to make sure I provide the best environment for my children and be a good role model for them."
Newcome, who is the principal for SS.C.D. School, is also a mother to two children, Carter, who is 10, and Ella, who is seven.
She is also greatly involved in activities and events at her family church, The First Church of God in Punxsutawney.
So with only 24 hours in a day, Newcome has to be very careful with how she spends her time.
"My biggest challenge is making sure I devote enough time to both my family and my career," she said. "I think it's really hard to be a career person with a family, because you really have to devote a lot of time and energy to make your career successful, but yet, you have a career so that you can support your family. And because I'm a single parent, it's even more of a quandary, because I don't like to take that time away from my family."
Since Carter was born in 2001, Newcome has had to juggle many responsibilities.
But her list of responsibilities never stops growing.
"Right now, it's a little bit calmer than it was, but it was very chaotic there for quite a while," she said.
As a young boy, Carter is involved in every sport under the sun, including football, basketball and baseball. As a young girl, Ella is also very busy, with one foot in the world of soccer and the other in ballet.
And both of her children are very involved in the community, especially Kingdom Kids, a program at the First Church of God.
According to Newcome, community involvement is key and is something she wholeheartedly believes in.
"I like to see (my kids) to be a part of the community," she said. "I want to teach them to volunteer for things â€” the importance of doing more than just within yourself. I think if you have the time to give, you need to give it. I think if you have the opportunity to improve something, or to help with something, you need to devote that time."
In order to reflect this philosophy, Newcome, herself, is a key player in events at both SS.C.D., and the First Church of God.
Aside of serving as principal at SS.C.D., she helps with the school's biggest fund-raiser â€” its yearly auction, set to take place Feb. 4.
She also serves on the Home and School board and will soon be gearing up for the Home for the Holidays Parade by building the school's float.
One of her favorite Christmastime events is the First Church of God's Living Christmas Tree, a popular activity with about 500 to 600 attendees at each performance.
"It's one of my favorite things to do," she said. "It's a lot of work, and it's very time consuming, but Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. It just wouldn't be â€” it's an amazing performance."
Newcome will also head the church's 50-team volleyball tournament slated to take place in March.
"It's a huge fellowship activity," she said. "It's a huge undertaking, but it's incredibly worth it."
Although all of these activities are important to Newcome, at the end of the day, the driving force behind it all are two people: Carter and Ella.
"Some mornings are very hard, but everything I do is so that my children have a better life," she said. "That's just my goal."
Just about four years ago, when she was hit with the reality of being a single mom, Newcome wasn't sure how she could do it.
But in four years, she has accomplished a lot and believes everyone is capable of doing the same.
"I left with one pay check, I was afraid to be alone, I was scared of the dark â€” but I made it," she said. "You can't be afraid to step into the unknown. You've got to take those steps to advance yourself. In the past four or five years, I've taken a lot of scary steps. I've been surprised by the fact I was able to do it.â€ť
One of those steps was going back to school.
Newcome recently completed her Master's degree through Ashford University's online program, and she plans to go back to school again for her principal certification.
"After years of being out of college, I thought, could I go back and do it?" she said. "But I knew it was something I had to do to further my career. It was a leap of faith that really panned out."
Her newest goal is a personal one, but is a major goal she wants to accomplish for the two very special people in her life.
"I want to own my own home for my kids," she said. "If we want to paint the house purple, we can paint the house purple. If we want to put a tree in the yard, we can put a tree in the yard. That's one of my big goals."