Reaching the 98
Thank you for joining me in this edition of the Advocates for Adolescent Mothers Archive! I hope that all the deserving mothers enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day. Joining the ranks of motherhood is a truly life-altering experience, offering great rewards and challenges. I became a mother while still a teen, and my son and I have weathered some very tumultuous storms, yet shared some very special moments along the way. As a youth who was born and raised in poverty, there were many challenges that I had to overcome as I worked toward earning my college degree, in an effort to fight my way out of poverty. My son and I experienced homelessness multiple times. There were many sacrifices I made to accomplish what became my mission at that time; to earn a college degree. A moment that I will never forget is how illuminated my son’s face was when after 6 years of college, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with my bachelor’s degree: I believe it was at this triumphant moment that he realized and appreciated our struggles leading up to this milestone.
There are many other young moms who are faced with similar and more pressing challenges when pursuing high school and college degrees. Not all of these young moms possess the level of relentlessness that I demonstrated to overcome every barrier that attempted to inhibit my completion of my college education. Few young moms, including myself, have a strong support system sufficient enough to counteract the obstacles faced in pursuit of a high school and college degree. Part of AFAM’s mission is to provide this support to young moms focused on earning a college degree. Through our Educational Empowerment Grant Initiative, we have been afforded the opportunity to be part of a special young mom’s journey, who is working toward earning her college degree. Please continue reading to learn how this young lady’s story is unfolding.
This edition of The Archive is full of information on the great work we are doing, and although lengthy, I hope you will read it completely. In addition to interviewing our star grant participant, we also unveil a new program, detailing the future of the Educational Empowerment Grant Initiative. I am so excited to publicly share this program for the first time with you, an AFAM supporter. If this email resonates with you in any way, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to email me and share this newsletter with your friends and social networks.
Lillian S. Harris
Founder and President
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INTERVIEW WITH CHARITY BENEFIELD EDUCATIONAL EMPOWERMENT GRANT INITIATIVE PARTICIPANT
Advocates for Adolescent Mothers has always had intentions to one day offer scholarships to young moms in college. One year after being incorporated as a 501(c)(3), we decided to begin working toward that goal. Although we couldn’t afford to offer a scholarship, we knew we could raise enough money make a positive impact on the lives of young mothers working toward earning a college degree. In 2011, Advocates for Adolescent Mothers piloted our Educational Empowerment Grant Initiative (EEGI), a program designed to provide financial and socio-emotional support to young moms entering their first year of college. In addition to offering them a $500 grant, the goals of the program were to impart knowledge about managing the roles of mother and college student, enhance critical thinking skills, and ultimately empower the young moms to successfully complete their first year of college. We had one participant who showed so much promise, that we were compelled to modify the program by offering the grant for the first 2 years of college attendance instead of just the first year.
Charity Benefield was selected to participate in the EEGI after graduating from Uplift Community High School, near the top of her class with a 3.4 GPA, despite experiencing homelessness in her senior year. She received references from two faculty members at her school; both referenced her level of motivation and maturity.
During Charity’s first year in the EEGI, I was so impressed with her level of commitment, self-reflection, and diligence; not to mention the love that she has for her daughter, which is her motivation for all that she does. Charity responsibly managed the grant that she received from the program, and demonstrated a clear appreciation for the intensive level of goals established through her participation in EEGI workshops. Charity commuted by bus from Champaign to Chicago to participate in the EEGI workshops. Charity participated in an interview for her feature in this newsletter: Check it out below!
Charity: I am so excited! I met with the Chair of the Psychology Department and he has approved Psychology as my major next year!
Lillian: That is so awesome Charity! I’m so happy for you and proud of you.
I’m so grateful that you have allowed AFAM to be part of your journey as you work toward earning your college degree. Why did you decide to apply for the EEGI?
Charity: I applied because I thought the program would help me be successful in college and in my life as a teen parent. Additionally, I needed financial assistance in paying for college, and the money provided would help pay for books.
Lillian: What are some of the most important things that you have learned by being involved in this program?
Charity: I learned about the importance of time management and balancing my duties. I learned that I’m not alone in my journey as a student teen parent. I learned about the important of persistence: If you do not stop working hard for something, a college degree and your dreams, you will achieve them.
Lillian: What has it been like, being a teen mom while in college?
Charity: The first year was difficult. I did not imagine the struggles of balancing school and motherhood. I was beginning to build relationships with people; I learned that there were few people I could trust and depend on to support me by watching my daughter—That was a big challenge. Time management was also a challenge for me.
Sophomore year was a lot better than freshman year. I had people who I trusted to support me, and I knew what to expect in my classes. My classes were at a higher level, and the content was harder, but I was glad to have those challenges. Time management was still somewhat a challenge, but I improved a lot.
Lillian: What is your ideal job?
Charity: My ideal job is an art therapist. I would work with survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence using art as a means to empower them. I would make enough money to have a stable life for my family.
Lillian: What are your goals for your daughter?
Charity: I would like to see my daughter follow her dreams, and be confident in her goals. I look forward to her continued development in the coming years: She is only 2-years-old and I am very impressed with her development already.
Lillian: If you could personally thank the sponsors of the Educational Empowerment Grant Initiative what would you say?
Charity: Thank you for sponsoring an initiative that has helped empower me and my ambitions in higher education. This program is necessary for young moms to manage college and parenting at a young age, and it has aided my success in both of those areas. Thank you for supporting and believing in me.
Lillian: If there was one way to improve this program, what would it be?
Charity: As a participant of this program, I hoped to have learned from other teen moms along their journeys. The program could be improved by having multiple teen moms working toward the same goals, sharing and learning from each others’ experiences.
Lillian: Anything else you would like to add?
Charity: I am so thankful to have a mentor who I can aspire to and learn from. I look forward to seeing the growth of this grant initiative.
Charity is 19-years-old and has completed her sophomore year at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her GPA at the end of the fall semester was 2.73 (spring semester GPA not yet available, but she anticipates that it will be higher than the fall GPA). Charity’s level of diligence is exceptional, and is a true indication of her desire to succeed: I am probably more encouraged by Charity than she could ever be by me.
The Educational Empowerment Grant application will be available later this month. It is our goal to offer the Educational Empowerment Grant to at least 3 young mothers who are college students in 2013. As Charity stated in her interview, there is value added in participating in the program with other teen moms. The cost of administering the grant is approximately $2000 per student. To make a tax-deductible donation to the Educational Empowerment Grant, donate online at http://bit.ly/EEGIFR. Donors of $600 or more receive sponsorship perks: Email us at email@example.com for additional details on sponsorship. Please donate to help us reach our goal by June 30th.
THE FUTURE OF THE EDUCATIONAL EMPOWERMENT GRANT INITIATIVE
Piloting the Educational Empowerment Grant Initiative has afforded us the opportunity to learn about the needs of teen mothers who are in college and best practices for engaging them. Our work through the EEGI has also lead us to think more systemically about effectively equipping a larger number of young moms to break the cycle of poverty and establish prosperity, as these objectives are part of our mission and vision. We realize that these goals cannot reasonably be accomplished through 8 informational workshops offered over the course of 2 years.
The symptoms of poverty include increased risk of child abuse and neglect, increased risk of exposure to domestic violence, low educational attainment rates, higher rates of mental health disorders, homelessness, and teen pregnancy: These are issues that are faced by many teen moms; numerous teen moms experienced these things as children, prior to becoming a mom. Without an effective intervention, the children of teen moms will likely experience these same poverty symptoms, become teen parents themselves, and continue the cycle of teen pregnancy and poverty.
Poverty is an intricately layered problem that requires a multi-faceted, systemic, and comprehensive solution to lead to effective and enduring change. Clearly, poverty reduction efforts that do not address the population of families headed by young parents will not be most effective at alleviating poverty.
Although a college education is one of the most powerful weapons against poverty, yet less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree before the age of 30. And while earning a college degree reduces the likelihood that an individual will live in poverty, the accrual of assets is one of the most promising paths for obtaining prosperity. With this in mind, Advocates for Adolescent Mothers will offer the Catalyst98 Fellowship, which will provide a stipend, specialized training, and college credit to young mothers who are in college. Through participation in Catalyst98, fellows will enhance their leadership, study skills, personal development, parenting, life skills, and critical thinking. In addition to sharpening these skills and being offered support while earning a college degree, Catalyst98 Fellows will be provided the needed knowledge to acquire additional assets through entrepreneurship and ownership.
Catalyst98 will provide young moms a greater pathway out of poverty than the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal program acknowledged for boosting families out of poverty. The Catalyst98 Fellowship, once proven as an evidence-based model, will be replicated nationally, and will lead to a disruptive movement of a substantially larger percentage of young mothers earning undergraduate degrees; realizing the “American Dream” of ownership; and becoming successful entrepreneurs. This remarkable, much needed, and unprecedented program is just wishful thinking without the capital to make this vision a reality.
Can you help us reach the 98%?
We are asking for your help to implement this groundbreaking antipoverty program. It is our goal to raise the first $10,000 of seed capital for the Catalyst98 Fellowship before December 31, 2013. Please make a tax-deductible donation to help us reach our goal. Donate online at http://bit.ly/AFAMBTD or mail a check or money order to us at PO Box 43234, Chicago, IL 60643.
We are also seeking advisors for this program: We are especially seeking the counsel of professionals with expertise in program evaluation, post-secondary education, and economics to join our Advisory Commission. Anyone interested in this opportunity should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until we have the revenue to implement the Catalyst98 Fellowship, we will continue to offer the Educational Empowerment Grant. Although a grant alone is not sufficient enough to equip young moms to break the cycle of poverty AND acquire assets to establish prosperity, this grant does aid young moms to overcome some of the financial barriers of attending college.
UNITING TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION
Advocates for Adolescent Mothers mission is to empower young parents by providing them with the tools, resources, and support needed to break the cycle of poverty, establish prosperity, and prevent child abuse. The meaningful work needing to be done to accomplish this mission cannot be completed in solitude. Although AFAM has multiple partners in various industries, we have been focusing more heavily on establishing formal partnership agreements to increase our capacity to accomplish our mission. If you would like to partner with AFAM, please email us at email@example.com
Simpson Academy for Young Women is a Chicago Public Middle and High School that serves young mothers all over the city of Chicago. Simpson’s mission is to empower young women to be great mothers, great scholars, and great citizens. Simpson provides comprehensive support to simultaneously prepare students for success. Simpson offers an on-site health clinic, on-site childcare, and individualized planning.
Our partnership with Simpson Academy began in 2010 with our first Back to School Celebration, and has continued to flourish with the Educational Empowerment Grant. Simpson is celebrating the accomplishment of one of their butterflies, student, Debra Smiley, for winning the Bank of America Student Leader Award, the CME Mayoral Award for Scholarship, and a scholarship from NIU. Students from Simpson will be applying for Advocates for Adolescent Mothers Educational Empowerment Grant and our founder, Lillian Harris will be joining Simpson’s panel for their Senior Day on June 14th. Later in June, Simpson will be hosting their first Golf Fundraiser. Check out the details below and visit their website to learn more about Simpson’s work!
SIMPSON’S GOLF TOURNAMENT WILL BE HELD AT
GEORGE DUNNE NATIONAL GOLF COURSE!
ONE OF THE TOP 25 US PUBLIC GOLF COURSES!
FORMAT ~ 4 PERSON SCRAMBLE
ENTRY FEE: $150 (Individual)/$500 (foursome)
Includes golf with cart, tee gifts, range balls, contests on the course, lunch dinner after golf and prizes.
Registration deadline: Wednesday, June 12th
Please contact Leslie Botello 773-567-0206 or Mitch Korrub 847-344-6973 for more info!
We are still seeking volunteers to help us out on Sunday, May 26th at MB Financial Bank’s Bike the Drive!
VOLUNTEERS RECEIVE COMPLIMENTARY BREAKFAST, T-SHIRT, AND FREE ENTRY TO THE VOLUNTEER RAFFLE!!!
The volunteer shift is from 4:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Email AFAMathletics@advocatesforadolescentmothers.com to register and learn more about this opportunity!
Thank you for taking the time to check out the May edition of the AFAM Archive! Have a prosperous day!!!