Program helps teen moms stay in school

April 29, 2008 8:02:50 AM PDT
Becoming a new mom is hard enough, but doing it as a teenager brings with it a whole other set of challenges. An Oakland program is working to help teen moms stay in school and go to college. The program called Moms Mentoring Moms has now landed in the national spotlight.

Finding the financial aid that's available out there can be tricky, getting the forms filled out can be confusing - not to mention picking up your kid from daycare when you aren't even old enough to drive. But a new program focuses on mothering teen moms. The question is - can this program make it, especially during these tough economic times?

Between them, these women have earned three high school diplomas, achieved or are working on three college degrees and have won a national award. Yet the odds of any of this happening were pretty low. They also all had a baby before their 20th birthday.

"You see a teen mom and you're like, she didn't graduate from high school and will do nothing with her life, she's going to work at a low income job," said Anita Lopez, teen mom.

But 18-year-old Anita Lopez knows she wants to be a nurse. What she doesn't know is how to make that happen. And she's so tired from dealing with a 5-month-old that she can hardly find the energy to chase her dreams - that's where Ginelle Perez comes in.

"The biggest motivation to me as a mentor is having them not go through all the things that I went through," said Ginelle Perez, mentor.

Ginelle had her baby when she was 14. She knew a minimum wage job wasn't going to cut it, but she found there wasn't much help out there for a girl who wanted to navigate the college admissions process while also raising a child.

"It was very hard. It was constantly learning what I should have done or what deadline I should have followed or what scholarship was out there after the fact, in many cases," said Perez.

But Ginelle figured it out. She's now a senior at UC Berkeley. She's also working with Anita as her mentor, helping her make those deadlines and fill out those complicated forms.

The two met at Moms Mentoring Moms, a program in Oakland created by Martha Braithwaite - another mom who had her baby when she was a teenager.

"For us to pass on what we've learned just by doing it, to say we can shorten the learning curve for a lot of women just by sharing our experience," said Martha Braithwaite, Moms Mentoring Moms.

The program is about to wrap up its first year. It's been so successful and popular - Braithwaite is expecting it to double in size this summer. Moms Mentoring Moms has even been nationally recognized. Braithwaite just won the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund award.

"People are excited to see teen moms who have written a different story," said Braithwaite.

The question is whether this young non-profit will have enough money to survive. Braithwaite will spend her $5,000 prize money on the program. And she's proud of what they've been able to scrape together so far. She feels confident that her program will make it.

"I'm optimistic about funding because we have gotten such a great response from individuals and donors and foundations. It's something people are excited about," said Braithwaite.

Brighter Beginnings helps support Moms Mentoring Moms. The program director is also waiting to hear if the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth will be giving her a grant. But she says money or not - she will figure out a way to keep connecting moms with mentors. And if you're interested in becoming a mom or mentor Moms Mentoring Moms would love to hear from you.

If you would like more information please call: 877-427-7134

Or visit: www.brighter-beginnings.org


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