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When Ms. Obama Calls, We Answer

In a message to the White House email list last month, the first lady asked Americans to make a local commitment to help at least one young person make his or her way into higher education. Generation Hope is answering Ms. Obama’s call to action: 

Generation Hope is making college a reality for young people whom we often dismiss from the college conversation -- teen parents.

Generation Hope (supportgenerationhope.org) supports teen parents who are pursuing a college degree. The students we help are our “Scholars”: By finding funds to support them, and matching a mentor to each young parent, Generation Hope paves the way to college for young parents who have children of their own—and helps break the cycle of poverty in America. 

Like Ms. Obama, we believe in the power of education. Less than 2% of teen mothers earn a college degree before age 30, and the cost to taxpayers associated with teen childbearing is $9.4 billion, according to The National Campaign. We want to break this cycle that affects so many young Americans. A college education is our weapon. And we’re making progress every day. 

Since our founding in 2010, we have provided nearly $55,000 in tuition assistance, supported 26 Scholars, celebrated two college graduates, and presented college-readiness workshops to more than 275 high school students who are pregnant or parenting. With support from mentors, our Scholars do well in their academics and careers. The list of successes is many: One Scholar who recently graduated from the program and works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now working on her master’s degree. Another is a fine arts teacher at a private school.  

Generation Hope can thrive only when people understand and act on the White House’s conviction that an education is the first step to changing lives. In the case of Generation Hope—the parent's, and their child’s.

Scholar Marikit Williams with her daughter Maleah.  Marikit graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2013.

Scholar Marikit Williams with her daughter Maleah.  Marikit graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2013.

A Community in their Corner

Megan at our 2013 Fall Field Trip to the National Building Museum!

Megan at our 2013 Fall Field Trip to the National Building Museum!

In graduate school, it’s easy to think that your life is far more busy, complicated, and stressful than anyone else’s daily routine. As a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, I certainly find myself sliding into this pool of self-pity at times. Then I think about the phenomenal Scholars I’ve gotten the chance to work with through Generation Hope. These young women are just that—Scholars—and many of them the first in their families to attend college. Not only are they managing demanding course loads, but our Scholars are raising families of their own, working both part and full time jobs, and staying actively involved in their campuses and communities (one Scholar serves as President of her school’s student government!).  Their perseverance really puts my “PhD problems” in perspective!

As a first generation college student myself, I have experienced both the incredible challenges and opportunities afforded by higher education. Navigating the bureaucracy of college was completely overwhelming at times—and I was only taking care of myself! Thus, I signed up to volunteer with Generation Hope the very same day I learned about what this organization was doing to help young moms make their educational goals a reality. After meeting with Generation Hope staff, we realized that one of the most challenging transitions in college is the huge leap in the rigor of the coursework. Also, because our Scholars have responsibilities beyond their own schooling, their professor’s office hours aren’t always accessible for their schedules. So, we began a tutoring program, matching local volunteers with varying types of expertise with Scholars who need help in a particular subject area. More than that, our volunteers have helped students apply for scholarships, look over resumes and cover letters, proofread papers, and even just help with general college study skills. It’s been awesome to see our Generation Hope family grow through these partnerships, and the encouragement our Scholars feel through such strong support from the community! So far this year, we’ve matched almost half of our Scholars with tutors, showing just how necessary this program is and what a huge difference it can make in their lives.

We are always looking for more tutoring partners, especially in the math and science fields! If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering, just fill out the application on our website!

-Megan Fitzmaurice, Tutor Program Coordinator

Spreading the Word about College in DC

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Did you know that October is College Awareness Month in DC? You may think that most young people know about college. However, the reality is that many young people—especially teen parents—do not have the information they need to make informed choices about their futures. Every member of our 2013 Scholar class is the first in her family to go to college, which means that even if they hadn’t experienced a pregnancy, going to college might not have been in their plans. Additionally, once a young person who is considering college becomes a parent, they are often discouraged from attending or told that it is no longer an option.

But college is an option for teen parents. Our Scholars are proving every day that it is possible for teen parents to not only survive but thrive in higher education. They are some of the hardest working students that you will find anywhere—they know it is essential for them to get their degrees in order to ensure better lives for their children.   

All teen parents must receive the message that college is an option. They can be encouraged to dream big for themselves and for their children. To achieve this, we conduct college-readiness workshops across the D.C. region to help inform expecting or parenting high school students about the possibility of attending college. We want them to know that college is an essential step to ensuring economic stability for their families. This year alone, we will conduct at least 39 workshops at 15 schools and community organizations.

“College awareness” is about more than just sharing the importance of a college education with students—they also need the tools and resources to make the goal a reality. That’s why, in our college-readiness workshops, we provide extensive information about the pros and cons of different types of colleges, the ins and outs of the financial aid process, recommendations for how to “make it all work,” and more. We hope our efforts will result in all D.C. area teen parents reaching their full potential! 

 -Caroline Griswold, Program Manager