Tag Archives: MotherLove program

“I Want Them to Know They Can Do It!” MotherLove Alumni Give Back

8 Oct

By Holly Gillespie, YWCA MotherLove Coordinator

I want to celebrate with you a realization of the ideals of empowerment…  

MotherLove alum Gaines and her son

MotherLove alum Ahmarie Gaines and her son

The other week, 8 graduates from the MotherLove program gathered for the first Alumni Meeting of the year.  Several women came directly from a full work shift, most brought their baby with them, and no Alumni are older than 20.  That means 8 working teen parents took 2 hours of their busy and often complicated lives to come together to, in their words, “give back” to the program.

I was deeply moved when, inspired by a prompt from our star volunteer, Debbie Welch, each Alum offered her or his reason for giving up a weeknight of potential downtime to come to the group. The consensus sounded something like this: “MotherLove has meant so much to me and helped me so much.  I want to do whatever I can to help the program and to offer that support to young moms who are still in high school.  I want them to know they can do it; they can graduate!”

I asked the group how they wanted to spend their time together, suggesting a range of ideas from regular social gatherings, to planning Evening Support Group Sessions for the young parents enrolled in the program this year.  The group unanimously chose to take on the responsibility of not only planning, but facilitating a Group each month for the parents still in high school!

The 2015 Alumni Committee’s first delivered Evening Group Session will take place this month.  Alumni chose to begin the session by each sharing the story of their personal journey through parenthood and high school.  Afterwards, they will co-facilitate small groups to ask current participants what they want to gain from the MotherLove program this year, and any skills or information they feel they need to learn as new parents.

Nancy Herrera-Mendoza, MotherLove alum, in her high school graduation cap and gown

Nancy Herrera-Mendoza, MotherLove alum, in her high school graduation cap and gown

I want to highlight that the format of this session is top-notch, utilizes best practices, and is infused with the ethics of empowerment.  These women and men are fresh out of high school and leaning on instinct and personal experience… and they have created a model that scholars would envy.  

Words cannot express how impressed I am with this group of young parents.  I am deeply grateful for the privilege of walking with them on their parenting journey, and am inspired by their drive and motivation to share what they have learned.  This is the essence of empowerment.

Let’s Talk About Sex!

29 Apr

By Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

MotherLove tried something new for our most recent Evening Group Session: we handed the design, planning, and facilitation of the session over to our Alumni.  It was a resounding and inspirational success!

MotherLove Alumni at a feedback meeting with MotherLove staff in November, 2014

MotherLove Alumni at a feedback meeting with MotherLove staff in November, 2014

The MotherLove Alumni Committee consists of MotherLove Graduates who have completed high school, but wish to remain active in the program.  At the close of last school year, several graduates expressed a desire to “give back” to MotherLove. They told us they felt the program made a huge difference in their lives and they wanted to help make that difference for young women who are still in high school and just beginning their journey into motherhood.  Thus, the Alumni Committee was born.

When the time came to make plans for an Evening Group Session on the topic of sex, the Alumni Committee convened to take on the challenge.  There were many unanimous agreements during our planning session:

-the conversation needed to feel relevant and valuable to the teen moms and dads,

-adult volunteers would be a welcome addition to the group dynamic, and

-whereas many women can articulate that they alone are the masters of their bodies, many women lack the skill set to assert their personal boundaries and preferences.

This last point drove the remainder of the conversation, for how can an individual protect his/her body from STI’s or unplanned pregnancy without the skills to assert their boundaries and preferences?

MotherLove participants at the MotherLove holiday gathering, 2014

MotherLove participants at the MotherLove holiday gathering, 2014

The Alumni ultimately chose to facilitate several small group discussions centered around 7 composed questions.  The questions ranged from ,”how does having a baby affect your sex life?” to “what if you love someone who cheats on you?”  The goal was to engage all who were present in meaningful, self-reflective conversation driven by an undercurrent of self-advocacy and empowerment.

The result was astounding.  Three courageous young women, all fresh out of high school last year, facilitated small group discussions for a mixed age audience on a tremendously sensitive, personal, and often taboo subject.  Each group created an atmosphere of support and confidentiality that made room for teens and adults to share deeply.  MotherLove staff also facilitated a small group for dads. They, too, were open, vulnerable, and reflected on the material in a meaningful way. The evening was truly inspiring.

The success of the evening offers new territory to be explored in MotherLove’s Group Session planning and design. Empowerment means placing power in someone’s hands.  If it is teen moms whom we wish to empower, then it is in their hands that we must place power.  MotherLove’s Alumni Committee continues to grow with each new, motivated graduate.  Their wisdom and perspective will continue to be sought as we aim to foster leadership and self-advocacy in this new generation of young women.

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the NC Dept Health and Human Services – Women’s Health Branch – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Bank of America, Walnut Cove Association, Buncombe County Services Foundation, Duke Progress, TD Bank, YWCA donors, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.

For more information, contact Holly Gillespie, coordinator of MotherLove, by email at holly.gillespie@ywcaofasheville.org or by calling 828-254-7206 x 104.