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Program helps teens navigate parenthood
rowing up, Tiesha Hughes watched her mother—who’d had her first child at 14—struggle to raise five kids. Tiesha wanted a better life for herself, and when her mother and siblings moved to Alabama, then-12-year-old Tiesha stayed in Boston, won honors at her parochial junior high school and attended boarding school on a scholarship. But when she got pregnant at 16, the school told her she had to leave.
With nowhere to turn, Tiesha felt hopeless. A few days after giving
birth to a son she named Ju’Quon, she enrolled in Children’s
Young Parents Program (YPP), which provides comprehensive healthcare,
counseling, education and advocacy for teen parents. Soon, things
began to change for Tiesha.
Since the YPP started in 1980, it has recognized that a young mother must flourish physically, mentally and socially for her child to succeed.
More than just health care
“One of the nice things for our girls is that the get a lot of attention here,” says YPP social worker Jennifer Valenzuela, LCSW. “They can call us directly and talk to someone they know. They can page us if they suddenly realize they need immunizations by the next day. They couldn’t get that in a typical primary care setting.”
Growing up fast
YPP staff are also expert at navigating the maze of challenges facing disadvantaged young mothers, such as finding temporary shelter, transportation, day care and youth services and even negotiating bill payment plans with utility companies. Their command of these skills and resources has earned national recognition.
Today, Tiesha is 23 years old and works as an executive assistant at the Boston charter school where 5-year-old Ju’Quon is a buoyant, soccer-playing kindergartner. Having completed college, Tiesha is pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Her goal? To work with teen parents.
“It’s my calling,” she says. “Most teen moms leave school and have a hard time going back. I know I can help them with their education, goals and options.”—KK
This article was published, in a slightly different form, by the Children’s Hospital Trust in The Spirit of Giving.