Durham Non-Profit Redefines "Teen-Mom"
Updated: Dec 6, 2019
Angel Hope’s first day of class at Hillside High School, a significant event in any teenager’s life, was supposed to be Aug. 27, 2015. But the day would soon prove to be even more important as she gave birth to her daughter, Gabrielle, at the age of 15.
Four first days of school and three birthdays later, Angel is on track to graduate high school. The young mother is ranked fourth in her class, all while balancing the responsibilities of raising her daughter and working 28 hours a week at her part-time job. She plans on attending North Carolina Central University in the fall and study neonatal nursing.
For Angel, the perseverance to remain in school while raising her daughter was greater than the 60 percent chance that she would become a high school dropout and the 98 percent chance that she wouldn’t complete college before the age of 30 cited by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“I just knew I wanted to graduate high school,” said Angel. “I didn’t want to be a statistic. And I wanted to go to college to show Gabrielle that no matter what the situation is, you can always be successful.”
Angel wasn’t alone in her fight against the odds. Helping Each Adolescent Reach Their Spark (H.E.A.R.T.S.), a Durham-based nonprofit dedicated to helping young mothers graduate high school, was by her side every step of the way. With a 100 percent graduation rate and 42 graduates at Hillside and Southern High Schools, the H.E.A.R.T.S. program, now headquartered at ReCity Durham, has a resume as impressive as its members.
Tameka Brown, founder and CEO of H.E.A.R.T.S., was first introduced to the difficulties faced by young mothers when her best friend became pregnant at 15.
“She dropped out of high school,” said Brown. “Which is a number one reason I strive to make sure all of our girls graduate. I’ve seen the damage of a dropout. I know what that does to you personally. Teen pregnancy is not just a one-person situation. It affects generations to come.”
For Angel, that cycle was impossible to ignore. Her mother became pregnant with her at the age of 16, and her father left the family when she was 1-year old. Angel, however, says that everything she does is to break “the generational curse” and provide a better life for her daughter.
Including Angel, the eldest of the group, H.E.A.R.T.S. works with 10 young mothers enrolled in Hillside High School—a number that was 16 at the beginning of the year.
The nonprofit is hired by individual schools to consult the affected population by organizing programs and workshops around the four H.E.A.R.T.S. keys: self-development, education, family development and financial awareness.
The sessions include hands-on learning outside of the classroom with partners like Microsoft Office and Hope Her Way.
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