When Lisie Nunez was 19, she put her dreams of becoming a nurse on hold to take care of her newborn son, Charlie. "It was tough having a child so young," she says. "I didn't expect it and I wasn't prepared." But, four years later, with the help of Jennifer Valenzuela, MSW, MPH, a social worker in Children's Hospital Boston's Young Parents Program (YPP), Nunez is now much closer to her goal of becoming a nurse.
The YPP is a program for Boston area teen mothers, fathers and their children; it provides the entire family with medical treatment, health education and support services. The program, which is part of the Children's Hospital Primary Care Center (CHPCC), was launched in 1980 and now serves about 250 teenage mothers, 75 fathers and 300 babies every year. Its team is made up of physicians, nurses, a nurse practitioner and social workers, all of whom make sure the babies are getting the care they need by teaching the parents parenting skills and encouraging them to stay positive and make proactive, smart decisions for themselves and their children.
"The Young Parents Program shows you that if one door closes, another will open for you and you have to keep moving forward," Nunez says. "They help with anything from essays for school to giving you free diapers. Jennifer was a tremendous role model and helped me through the tough times. I can't put words together to thank them."
YPP also helped Nunez enroll in a career training program, where she obtained her clinical assistant (CA) certificate, and helped her get a job at Martha Eliot Health Center (MEHC) as a CA. Although balancing school and a job wasn't easy as single mom, Nunez knew she had to stay focused and upbeat. "Charlie inspires me," she says. "I have days when I want to give up, but I want him to grow up and be proud of me." After two years at MEHC, Nunez moved to her current position as an administrative associate for attending physicians in CHPCC, and plans to study nursing.
Nunez knows her hard work is already paying off. "A lot of people look at young mothers negatively, and I'm proud I have proved those people wrong," she says. "I have my own apartment, got a good job, found day care and I'm there for Charlie." When Nunez has free time, she likes to play basketball and joke around with her son, who's now 5. "I like to laugh and he likes to be the entertainer," she says. "Charlie doesn't have everything I'd like to give him, but he has enough to be a healthy, happy, normal kid and I'm proud to be able to give him that. I struggle to better myself little by little and I don't plan on stopping. The road doesn't stop here. This is the beginning of a wonderful life."