Soon upon entering university I was interested in volunteering. I have an innate desire to serve, which in the light looks like working on behalf of people with less privilege than I (on the dark side it looks like martyrdom). Although I was a 19 year old poor single mom, I had something that some underage teen moms did not have – a safe home to live with their child. Unlike my mother, some parents of teen moms kick them out of their family home as punishment for their transgression.
I started working with a program that served teen moms in the YES House, a hub for student led community service groups. Through the Support Network for Teen Parents I met Havilyn, a student 2 years my senior, and Nadine, a young married mother of two. When we realized what some of the moms we worked with needed most, the three of us started a nonprofit, recruited a board (including the woman mayor), and opened the SHARP House. I worked as the Director of Children’s Services, acquiring donations of supplies for our babies and other supportive activities. I also spent most of my time outside of school at the house building relationships with the moms.
We had naysayers due to our youth and our mission, but we ignored them. I worked with the house for a year before I moved on to other pursuits. I’ve always been proud of that endeavor because teen moms need community support rather than to be rejected for transgressing society’s ideas about sex and parenthood. Teen parents are not destined to be lifelong welfare recipients or bad parents, especially if they have the support needed to go to school, move up the business ladder, and/or parent in a healthy way. Many of us work harder to do right by our children because of our circumstances.