Tag Archives: teen parents

“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.

MotherLove Diaper Drive

15 Jul

MotherLove Diaper Drive
July 23, 10 am – 3 pm
In the YWCA Lobby

Newborn babies are a joy for every mother. The first days of motherhood should be spent bonding and focusing on getting life started on the right foot.  You can help support pregnant and parenting teens by donating diapers, a basic necessity for newborn children, to the YWCA MotherLove Program.

For more Information please call 828-254-7206 ext 104 or email scoston@ywcaofavl.org.

Thank you in advance!


With love: YWCA MotherLove Program

21 Feb

This is a re-post of an article on the Mountain Xpress website:

With love: YWCA MotherLove program helps pregnant and parenting teens, seeks mentors

By Caitlin Byrd for Mountain Xpress, 2/16/2013

At 14 years old, Svetlana Contreras found out her life was about to become more complicated than any homework assignment she could ever receive as a student at A.C. Reynolds high school: She was going to be a mother.

“It’s challenging raising a child. You have to make sure everything’s getting taken care of, including yourself, and make sure you’re caught up on schoolwork. If you have a job, you have to make sure you get into work. It’s all about that added responsibility,” the now 17-year-old high school junior says.

But for Contreras, she had help taking on these new responsibilities. During her first trimester, she signed up for the Asheville YWCA’s MotherLove program. For more than 25 years, the free mentor-based program has helped young parents like Contreras through both their pregnancies and adjusting to their new lives after having children.

“These girls need a support system,” says Tangela Bowman, who has served as the program’s director for more than a decade. “You have to have faith and believe in them and their destiny in their life.”

To do this, mentors are matched with a pregnant or parenting teen and make an eight-hour commitment to accomplish the mission of the program: prevent future pregnancies and help these teens graduate from high school. In turn, participants meet with mentors in the schools once a month, attend a monthly evening program at the YWCA and meet with their mentors for at least an hour.

For Contreras, her mentor was Bowman.

Wellness_MotherLove“I was always talking to Tangie about any problems I had,” she shares. “She was always very helpful and supportive.”

And it works. Currently, the program boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate. For Contreras, the program provided both the emotional and educational support she needed to follow her dreams as both a student and a mother. Though her college aspirations depend on scholarship support, the honor-roll student says college visits to Western Carolina University with other teen parents in the program have helped her realize her dream of going into medicine.

“I felt really accepted around all of them because they were in the same situation I was,” she says. “We talk about what we plan on doing and talk about what we plan on doing when we get out of high school,” she says.

However, Bowman states, the program is in high demand and, consequently, faces great needs.

“Our girls come from all different walks of life. A lot of them do have pregnancy medicaid and, yes, we do see a lot of low-income but we do see some that are not. This is the one group that doesn’t discriminate. You don’t have to have to be at low-level income to need the support. You can have money and still be pregnant and still be in need of support,” she says. “Right now, we have 30 girls in the program and we have a waiting list of like 40-something.”

It’s one of the reasons why the MotherLove program will be hosting a mentor-training session on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the YWCA from 9 a.m.-noon. As part of the training, people will learn how to be a mentor, how to build a relationship and about mentorship ethics. Though the mentorship commitment is for eight hours a month, Bowman explains that sometimes it can be much more.

“If it’s a really great match, nine times out of 10 with mentors, once their participant has graduated they don’t come back and mentor because they’re still following that participant. It’s a lifelong deal almost. That’s the kind of impact that’s being made in this program,” she says.

And when it came time for Contreras to give birth to her son, Ahmir, Bowman was at the hospital with her and acted as her advocate.

“We hope that people have a heart for these young ladies, young men or parenting teens,” Bowman says, adding, “We’re making a difference in these participants lives, and at the same time, they’re making us better people. We can learn so much from them.”

The YWCA MotherLove program is recruiting volunteer mentors to provide support and encouragement to teen mothers. A mentor training will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. until noon at the YWCA, 185 S. French Broad Avenue. An eight-hour a month commitment is required to be a mentor. For more information, contact Director of MotherLove Tangela Bowman at 254-7206, ext.116, or email tangela.bowman@ywcaofasheville.org.

Training February 23 for Mentors for Teen Parents

7 Feb

20130126_145117We are pleased to report that two teens in our MotherLove program for teen parents graduated from high school in January! There are eleven more MotherLove participants who are on track to graduate this spring.

MotherLove’s primary goal is to support teens to graduation and on to a living wage job. Program staff and mentors* work with participants and the school systems to facilitate success in school. The program also encourages participants to pursue higher education, and helps them access information about local colleges and scholarship opportunities. In the past ten years, 100% of seniors enrolled in MotherLove have graduated from high school. This is compared to nationwide statistics that show that only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age (CDC).

*The support provided by our volunteer mentors is crucial to the success of the MotherLove program. If you are interested in this rewarding volunteer opportunity, we are holding a training for mentors on Saturday, February 23 from 9 am until noon. For more information, contact our Director of MotherLove, Tangela Ballard Bowman, at 254-7206 x 116 or email tangela.bowman@ywcaofasheville.org.

Pictured: Tangela Ballard Bowman and MotherLove participant Nikki at her graduation. Congratulations, Nikki!