Tag Archives: teen pregnancy

What I Have Learned from 5 Years with MotherLove

10 Jun


Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly and her daughter Juniper enjoying the MotherLove 2016 graduation pool party.

Working with MotherLove has been a gift that I will always cherish.  I have been let into young lives at times of crisis, transition, power, and transformation.  I have spent my career at the YWCA so far.  I can’t imagine how different my life would be had that not been true.  I have learned so much from working in our community…

  • I have learned that listening matters more than I ever imagined.
  • I have learned to let go of trying to find the perfect thing to say to fix it.
  • I have learned that caring deeply for others means you must care deeply for yourself.
  • I have learned that teenagers can act like adults.
  • I have learned that adults can act like teenagers.
  • I have learned that teenagers often do act like teenagers, and that’s ok.
  • I have learned that you can’t really talk to someone about their love life.  You just have to listen and hope they can hear what they’re saying.
  • I have learned that the love a mother feels for her newborn baby is more powerful and magical than I ever dreamed.  I knew how it felt from the inside, but I cherish having witnessed the beauty of it time and again.
  • I have learned how tough and strong and determined and resilient a young woman has to be to have a baby and finish high school .
  • I have learned to ask for help.
  • I have learned that joy and support and laughter make a heavy load seem light, even if just for a moment.
  • And I have learned that we all have the power to affect each other deeply as we cross paths, and that small gestures of kindness and concern can impact others more than we can imagine.

Life must be about connections, or we are lost.

 – Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly Gillespie has been with the YWCA for 10 years. For the past five years, MotherLove has been a big part of Holly’s life.  At the end of the month, Holly will leave the program in the capable hands our new MotherLove Coordinator, Amada Read. We wish Holly the very best – we know she will continue to inspire and empower – and to learn.

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

“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.

Baby Clothing Swap to Benefit YWCA MotherLove

6 Mar

Mission Hospital’s Breastfeeding Center and Boutique, located at 2 Medical Park Drive Suite 201, is hosting a Baby Clothing Swap on Saturday March 9th. The Swap is a benefit for the YWCA MotherLove Program. Clothing drop off will be from 10:00 am – 11:30 am, and swapping will run from 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm.
Click here for more information.

The MotherLove program is featured in this month’s WNC Parent Magazine, with Mothers on the Move,  a program of the Mountain Area Child and Family Center. Here is a re-post of the MotherLove part of the story:

Giving Moms a Helping Hand
by Marla Hardee Milling

From left, Jasmine Flint, Teresa Allen, group leader Tangela Bowman, Ahmarie Gaines, Taiyanna Collington and Keyshaunna Ellington meet for the YWCA's MotherLove Lunch Bunch at Asheville High School. / John Fletcher/Jfletcher@citizen-times.com

From left, Jasmine Flint, Teresa Allen, group leader Tangela Bowman, Ahmarie Gaines, Taiyanna Collington and Keyshaunna Ellington meet for the YWCA’s MotherLove Lunch Bunch at Asheville High School. / John Fletcher/Jfletcher@citizen-times.com

The workday doesn’t end at 5 p.m. for Tangela Bowman, director of the MotherLove Program at the Asheville YWCA. “My girls know they have access to me 24/7.”

She wouldn’t have it any other way. For Bowman, helping teens that are pregnant or new moms isn’t a job, it’s part of her life purpose.

“I’m always excited about what I do and making an impact in someone’s life,” she says. “They are also making an impact on my life.”

The MotherLove program includes 30 participants at seven schools in Buncombe County. When it started about 25 years ago it focused solely on Asheville High School. It has grown to include a total of seven schools including the Community High School, Reynolds, Erwin, Owen, Enka and Roberson.

Teresa Allen is a senior at Asheville High School and a participant in the MotherLove Program.

“I found out I was pregnant over the summer of 2011,” says Allen. “I don’t know how the school found out, but they introduced me to the MotherLove Program. At that time I was living with my grandmother and alcoholic granddad. It was rough for me.” She says Bowman would sometimes let her stay at her house when her home life was too difficult. Bowman also picked her up and took her to her doctor appointments to ensure good prenatal care.

“She’s basically my second mom,” says Allen. “I love everything about the program and I made a lot of friends with the other girls.”

The participants all meet once at month for dinner and a program at the YWCA. They also gain important information through special lunchtime gatherings.

“We do lunch bunches at every school,” says Bowman. “We come in and provide lunch for them and we provide a speaker.” In February the speaker was a staff member from Helpmate who provided education about domestic abuse. In March, Wells Fargo staff will present the young women with useful tips on such topics as balancing their checkbooks, creating a budget and applying for credit.

Through a voucher system, Allen is able to secure child care for her almost year-old son at Asheville City Preschool while she finishes requirements for her diploma at Asheville High School. She’s on track to graduate in June.

Bowman urges supporters of this program to become advocates to push legislators to maintain the voucher system.“Vouchers are being put on hold even for teen moms,” says Bowman. “This is such a serious issue because if these girls don’t get these vouchers they will have to drop out of high school because they won’t have anyone to take care of their child.”

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor to the girls or helping in other ways can contact Bowman at the YWCA or visit http://www.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!

MotherLove WCU Campus Visit and Giving Tree

19 Nov

Participants in the YWCA MotherLove program for pregnant and parenting teens recently took a trip to the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee. They learned about what WCU has to offer, including a visit to the campus child care center. Currently all 22 girls in the MotherLove program have met their attendance and academic goals for the school year so far. We are confident that this spring, as in previous years, we will once again have 100% of seniors in the MotherLove graduating 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). Many MotherLove participants go on to pursue higher education, and campus visits are one way that we encourage teens to consider this possibility. 

In other MotherLove news, the annual YWCA MotherLove Giving Tree is now up in our lobby. Community members are invited to stop by and pick a star that lists the holiday wishes of a teen mother and her family. You can support these families by providing the gifts requested.

For more information about MotherLove, call Tangela Ballard Bowman at 254-2706 x 116 or email tangie.bowman@ywcaofasheville.org.

Click here to make a donation to the MotherLove program.

MotherLove Spring Break Enrichment

10 Apr

Over Spring Break, participants in the YWCA MotherLove program for teen moms used the week off for fun and learning. On Monday, a group went to Mission Hospital where they visited the birthing unit and met with hospital staff. Tuesday was an entertaining day with lunch and a movie at Biltmore Square Park. On Wednesday, the group toured Western Carolina University. On Thursday, parents and babies enjoyed “Toddler Story Time” at Pack Memorial Library. Katilyn, a MotherLove participant, attended all four days of activities. When asked what her favorite thing about the week was, she said, “Making new friends. I really enjoyed getting to know the other girls in the program.” Moreover, she was very happy to learn that Western Carolina University has a child care center. “I want to go there for college,” she said.

The MotherLove program is currently seeking volunteer mentors willing to spend eight hours a month with a pregnant or parenting teen. There will be a mentor training at the YWCA on Saturday, April 21 from 9:00 am – noon. Food will be provided. For more information, call MotherLove Director Tangela Ballard Bowman at 254-7206 x 116.

MotherLove Holiday Party

20 Dec

The YWCA MotherLove program for teen moms had their annual holiday party last week. This year was a “pajama party” theme. Everyone enjoyed a wonderful dinner and an entertaining storyteller from Pack Memorial Library. Volunteers presented baby blankets that they had knitted for participants in the program.