In the final piece in our Tale of Two Cities series taking a look at how average New Yorkers are surviving, Bronx reporter Erin Clarke introduces us to a single mother working to make a better life for her family.
Days usually start at 5:15 a.m. for 36-year-old Jasmine Reed and her two young sons.
To get to work and school on time, 7-year-old Shane, 10-year-old Ricky and their mom must be out of their Bronx apartment by 7:25 a.m.
The boys attend Catholic school, about a 20-minute drive away in Harlem, instead of the nearby public schools, a cost Reed sees as an investment.
"When I went to the Board of Education, they said, 'Oh, put them in the schools up the block.' I said, 'But the school has an F,'" she said. "They were telling me, 'Let them stay till January, report the school a failing school and then we'll see what we could do for you.' That wasn't an option for me."
She isn't skimping on her future, either. In addition to working full-time at Carnegie Hall, shuffling the boys to school and extracurricular activities on the weekends, Reed is taking classes at Metropolitan College of New York.
"I stayed up till midnight doing homework," she said.
She said she's working towards starting her own business and building a better life for her family. She's been a licensed cosmetologist since she was 19.
"I have the creative aspect of the business that I want to own," she said."I need to find out all about marketing and accounting so that the business doesn't fail."
On school nights, it's tough. Reed is no longer with her children's father. He pays child support, but lives out of state and can't be there to help with day-to-day responsibilities.
"On the nights that she has school, I pick them up," said Leola Reed, Jasmine's mother.
"Being a single parent is not the easiest thing," Jasmine Reed said.
However, she said it's doable.
"Not all the time do everything get paid on time, but it gets paid eventually," she said. "But it's a struggle."
Despite the struggle, Reed said her boys always have what they need, and she sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
"Within the next three years, I'm going to be in a great space," she said. "I'm going to have graduated school. I'm going to probably be moving and I'll be doing my passion, what I love, I'll be doing hair in a salon."