Published on August 23rd, 2018 | by Jen Bryant0
“Success Means Impact:” Her Future Empowers Teen Moms
When you become a teen parent, a lot of the things average teenagers are dealing with no longer seem to apply to you. At the same time, most parenting resources aren’t exactly aimed at your demographic.
I remember feeling like I was in some weird limbo as a young mother. My same-age peers were either in school or enjoying post-grad freedom; I couldn’t talk to them about teething or tantrums. And when I tried to connect with older mothers, I often got the feeling that kids were all we had in common. I searched in vain for a local group for young mothers, hoping to find friends and maybe even a few resources, but came up empty-handed. The few leads I found turned out to be crisis pregnancy centers in disguise.
For all the hand-wringing over what’s best for the babies of teen moms, less is said about supporting the teens themselves after they become parents. What support there is sometimes comes with a tinge of judgement or moral superiority, which can be off-putting even if the organization is doing good work. In the years since I became a new mom, I’ve often found myself wondering what an organization to support teen moms would look like if it was founded by someone who had actually lived through it.
Then I found Her Future: Teen Mom Empowerment Group, founded by Lauren Cole.
“Her Future came from my experiences,” Lauren explains. “I became pregnant at 18 and had my son at 19, during my sophomore year of college. The change that took place in my life was major, and it was a lot to navigate.”
Adjusting to new motherhood and keeping up with college coursework can be a lot to handle individually, but Lauren was tackling both at the same time. This experience caused her to wonder about other teen moms who were dealing with the same challenges. Where were they turning for help?
“When my family eventually came around, I had a great support system,” she says. “I realize that everyone does not have that, and I wanted to give support to young mothers who may have been navigating motherhood alone.” As a result, Lauren founded Roses, a campus group for student mothers, while she was still in college. The group offered “support and sisterhood” to other young moms seeking a sense of community.
After college, Lauren built a successful nonprofit career in Chicago. Still, she didn’t forget about other teen moms who were walking the same path that she once did, and so Her Future was born out of her desire to empower young parents.
From the first encounter, the vibe of Her Future is optimistic and engaging. The banner on the organization’s homepage proudly reads, “Dedicated to ensuring that teen moms know the power they possess.” There are links to help young mothers connect with resources for immediate needs, like education, housing, and diapers. There’s also information about young mother meet-ups, where participants can discuss goals, parenting, and life skills. Even the T-shirts for sale on the site support Her Future’s mission of encouraging and empowering teen parents. “I am not a statistic, “ reads one. Another says, “Oh, so resilient!” Cheery and brightly colored, the shirts signify joy and determination, not shame.
Her Future provides one-on-one and group mentoring for participants, who become part of the program through referrals. “Our organization is small by design, allowing us to make a true impact on the individual level,” explains Lauren. To date, the group has awarded $1500 in scholarships, provided Christmas gifts to mothers and their babies, and hosted baby showers to provide much-needed items to pregnant teens. Currently, Lauren is turning an eye towards expanding Her Future’s programming to schools, and the first school partnership is in the works. Her Future has already helped over 30 young moms in the Chicago area.
“I have something in common with my girls, and it helps me shape our programming,” Lauren says. “The moms who participate feel they can relate to me.” Lauren’s experiences as a teen mom heavily influence the direction of Her Future: “When it comes to programming, I can plan workshops that are beneficial to my girls and that cater to what they need.”
Feedback for Her Future has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our girls hate that we have summer vacation and are always excited to return in the fall,” says Lauren. “We also get great feedback from our donors, who love the work that we do.”
True support for teen moms is about more than just acceptance; it also means lifting mothers and their children up and letting them know that they still matter. Empowering teen parents starts a chain reaction. Providing teen moms with the tools and confidence they need to pursue their dreams can have a lasting impact on future generations, too.
For Lauren, the payoff is in seeing teen moms advance, one at a time. “When my moms achieve a goal they have been working hard at, and they call me to tell me, and then they say they know if it was not for my help and influence they would not have been successful, that means the most to me. I decided a while ago that success for me means impact, and to see the impact that I am making makes me proud.”
To learn more, please visit Her Future: Teen Mom Empowerment.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Cole and Her Future.