When I think of college students, the image that comes to mind is one like my own; young, fresh-faced, 18-year-old boy on his way out my door, ready for the freedom and lessons of college life. I think of dorms, classes, new friends, parties and football games. Despite the work I do here at the Center, I rarely think of a student starting out, juggling classes, part-time jobs and possibly a child or two at home. In reality, according to Education Week, “experts say a young, often poor, working parent is becoming the most common college student.”
A recent report from the Foundation for Child Development confirms something we’ve known for a long time. A mother’s education has an incredible influence on the well-being of her child’s life. The report analyzes 13 different economic, education and health indicators for children whose mothers have not graduated from high school, compared to children whose mothers have higher levels of education. The power of education on a young mother, as well as her children, is significant and should not be ignored. To change the next generation, to break cycles of poverty, we must focus on two generations: mother and child.
The study confirmed what we see at the Children & Family Resource Center every day and why we put such a strong focus on education. Our programs are focused on the first years of a child’s life, with the intent to make sure young children are ready for success in school. This means we are working with parents, in their homes, to access their child’s development, identify and address any delays and to help parents create stable home environments. In our local child care centers we are working with educators on the quality of their programs by training their teachers and helping them meet requirements for state inspections that will ensure children are in safe, quality early learning environments. We want a community where our homes and our day care centers are nurturing a child’s development. What we learn in this report is that educating mom may, in fact, have the greatest impact overall. I am very pleased that, because of some of the programs of at the Children & Family Resource Center, we have several moms who will be going back to school alongside their children this fall.
The Adolescent Parenting Program is a perfect example. We become involved in a young teen’s life because a baby is on the way, and our help is needed to stabilize a young family’s life so the baby can have the best chance. But, you can’t give this new baby his/her best chance without changing the life of the mother. The focus then becomes the teen and ensuring that she completes her education. Helping this young mother graduate from high school and guiding her in making decisions so that she does not become pregnant again while in school become the focus of our work. The odds are stacked against them, and our role is to be a caring adult in their life to teach them to navigate the obstacles before them so they can accomplish their goals. All the while, we want these young mothers to dream beyond high school. We are equipping them with necessary tools to continue their education because we know that will be the key to breaking the chains of poverty (and now we’ve learned, breaking the chains of all the other disparities as well) and creating the best life possible for the baby.
Our Scholarship for Single Mothers provides another opportunity for single mothers in Henderson County to gain their education. We recently shared a thank you letter from a young mother with our donors in our donor newsletter that said, “Thank you again for being part of the support that reminds me that I do have something to fight for and reminding me that my success in college matters.” This scholarship recipient is a young mother who dreams of becoming a Registered Nurse. She is 23 and the mother of a 5-year-old son and is the only working adult in her household. Determination and help from scholarships like ours have kept her on track toward her educational goals. If she can get her education, her life will change. Without it, she will likely struggle financially, and her son will absorb the impact of growing up in poverty. To date, our Scholarship for Single Mother’s fund has awarded thirty-three scholarships to young mothers.
These are just two programs we offer that significantly change lives for children and families in this community. Your support makes them possible. We began our new fiscal year on July 1, 2014. This year, we are challenged to raise 23% more than last year from donors like you. I hope you will consider a gift to our annual campaign this year, knowing your gifts are invested in both current and future generations. For a copy of the report, visit the Foundation for Child Development online at www.fcd-us.org and search for the report “Mother’s Education and Children’s Outcomes: How Dual-Generation Programs Offer Increased Opportunities for America’s Families.”
The Children & Family Resource Center improves the lives of children through parent education, quality child care resources and leadership on children’s issues throughout the community. To learn more about our programs please visit our website, www.childrenandfamily.org or call us at (828) 698-0674.