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Poverty & Equity Thought Leadership

National Scholarship Month – Building Resilience in our Teen Mothers

Each year Families First provides scholarships to assist our students as they transition to college or post-secondary education. These funds allow families for students to cover key costs including tuition, books, travel fees and housing. In celebration of National Scholarship Month, we recognize this year’s honorees Brenda Guillen and Nelis Pereira who both participated in our Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPP) which connects young mothers ages 13 to 19 who live in low-income families with the unique resources to meet their emotional, psychological, and physical needs. These funds help our mothers build resilience and reach their full potential. 

“Our moms want their children to thrive. They want to make decisions in the best interest of their children. They really want to be good parents,” shared Michelle Brock-Coleman, Teen Support Specialist with the Families First TAPP Program. 

Our programs focus on providing young moms with the tools, connections, and resources to build their resilience and ensure they can manage the stress and challenges as they pursue college or post-secondary education. A key component of helping these young mothers thrive is access to Families First’s behavioral health services. Throughout the counseling process, TAPP takes a comprehensive approach which extends beyond the young mother to include her family and the father of the child. Engaging clients’ parents encourages them to be involved in the experiences with their children. We know that teen dads also play a vital role in the development of their children. This emphasis on support is a critical part of the counseling process and increases young mothers’ likelihoods of success.

“Families First has helped me by giving advice on my baby, how to watch her and how to teach certain things for her age. With school, Families First motivated me to continue my education and to always be positive. They have taught me how to learn how to face challenges and that they always have my back,” shared Nelis who received the Marybeth Leamer Scholarship and the Carol Dunlap Reiser Scholarship. 

During COVID, TAPP found ways to expand resources to further assist the young moms. Many of the moms missed the community connection, so the TAPP team got creative and began dropping off items to the moms and having socially distanced doorstep and driveway visits to help them feel connected to the outside world during the pandemic.

“I am blessed to be with Families First. They have helped me and my parents through rough times. Since I am young it has been tough for me to understand motherhood,” said Brenda, the Carol Dunlap Reiser Scholarship honoree. “The Families First team has also helped me learn how to take care of myself and how to cope with emotions from the past.”

The Carol Dunlap Reiser Scholarship is in memory of former Board Chair, Carol Dunlap Reiser. This scholarship is awarded to two young women in Families First’s programs who will each receive a scholarship to be used for tuition, training, books, or other education-related needs. The Marybeth Leamer Scholarship is awarded to a youth participant of a Families First program who is a senior in high school and is intended to assist with tuition, training, books, or other items to go toward college or post-secondary training.

When this year’s scholarship honorees look to the future, they are focused on providing a better future for themselves and their children. 

Nelis notes, “I want to help a lot of kids. I am looking for a dental college. I just want to learn things that will benefit me later in life. I want to be able to give my daughter what she wants and needs.” 

“I want to be a midwife, but if I can’t be a midwife, I want to be a pediatrician. I want to show my daughter that even though I got pregnant at a very young age, I did get to succeed in life,” shared Brenda. 

Join Families First this holiday season to help our families enjoy the holidays! Our Adopt-A-Family helps bring holiday smiles and joy into the homes of our families! Thank you to Macy’s for your support in spreading holiday joy. Join us today as wish maker: Families First Donation Drives (roonga.com)


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