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Welcome to our Newest Staff Member, Ericka!

 Ericka speaking at Generation Hope's 2014 "Pep Rally Under the Stars" Gala (Photo: Frame Magic Video & Photo)

Ericka speaking at Generation Hope's 2014 "Pep Rally Under the Stars" Gala (Photo: Frame Magic Video & Photo)

Greetings! My name is Ericka, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Generation Hope staff! This is such an amazing, life-changing organization. I am an example of the impact that Generation Hope has in the lives of their scholars as I was a member of the 2012 "Impleti" class. I am excited to begin my new journey as a member of the staff. It is such an awesome feeling to wake up every day and know that you are working to change the lives of not only determined parents but their children too. 

I grew up in Washington, D.C. I currently reside in Maryland. I graduated from Trinity (Washington) University, cum laude, in May 2014 with a degree in business administration where I served as the School of Professional Studies, Student Government Association President. I fell in love with nonprofits and philanthropy early in my college career. 

I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and Trinity sisters. I love roller coasters, reading, watching movies, traveling and trying new things. 

I look forward to working with you in our efforts to help more teen parents in the D.C. area become college graduates!

-Ericka Harley, Assistant to the CEO

Ready to Own It

Today, we feature a guest post by our Scholar Wendy Gonzalez. Wendy attends Northern Virginia Community College while raising her son. She also interns with Reingold, Inc., where she works with her Sponsor Shannon Tucker.

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As we start a new year, we know 2014 will bring challenges as well as opportunities to become something better. Generation Hope reminds me that with focus and determination, I can do anything.

For me, that’s a powerful idea. I am an 18-year-old teen mother with a 2-year-old son. I became pregnant my junior year of high school, and I had difficult moments when I had to miss school because my son was sick. My social life slowly deteriorated once I became a parent. I worried that I wouldn’t make my mother proud of me.

Even before I had my son, I knew the challenges I would face. I was raised in a single-parent home. Money in our house was very tight because there was only one income providing for my brother and me. Through the years, I felt lonely, with no father figure and lack of motivation to dream for something more. My mother only graduated from high school, and I planned to do the same and end my education.

But once I became a mother, I understood I needed to improve my life to provide the best for my son and my family. Thanks to God, determination, and the Generation Hope staff, I was accepted into the program. They believed in me; faith in scholars’ potential is what makes Generation Hope unique.

I am glad to say I am a Generation Hope Scholar and feel as if I am not the only teen parent struggling to become successful. My days look different from those of many college freshmen: I used to hang out with friends after school, take 30 minutes to get ready for a party, and post on my friends’ Facebook walls. These days, I spend most of my time with my son—in addition to attending school, working as an intern at a communications firm, and keeping up with duties at home. I can’t just go to the movies with my friends now. Someday in the near future, when I have earned a degree, am economically stable, and my son is older, then I won’t think twice about going. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things temporarily to realize the future you want.

I am happy to have my Generation Hope Sponsor—a mentor who supports me every day. I can talk to her about anything. She helps me with many things, from motivating me when I’m ready to throw in the towel to finding alternate child care. We were able to build our relationship fast, as if we had known each other for years. She is always trying her best to help me succeed. After meeting her, I have learned that asking for help isn’t wrong, but instead to reach out when you need help, because others may have more knowledge and are able to give you a hand.

All of us who are part of Generation Hope can look back at 2013 with pride. 2014 will bring challenges as well as opportunities to become something better. Thirteen new scholars, including me, began their journeys with Generation Hope, with more to come. Generation Hope founder Nicole Lynn Lewis recently spoke about her moving experience as a teen parent in college at a TEDx event. I am inspired by her words, and with Generation Hope’s help with time management skills, I am ready to become a better student and strengthen my relationships. In 2014, anything is possible for me.

Happy Thanksgiving from our Staff!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, there are so many things to be thankful for.  Working for an amazing organization with wonderful Scholars, Sponsors, board members, donors, volunteers and community partners is a gift that we don't take for granted!  In the spirit of being grateful, we thought we'd share with you what our staff is most thankful for this year.

Thank you for believing in Generation Hope and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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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

What Makes a Good Mentor?

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A big part of my job is talking to potential Generation Hope Sponsors, and one of the concerns I often hear expressed is whether or not they are “qualified” to be a Sponsor. I hear questions like, “I’m not a parent, can I be a good Sponsor?” “I wasn’t a teen mom, can I be a good Sponsor?” “I’m not in the education field, can I be a good Sponsor?” When I get these questions, I always answer the same way: at the end of the day, the most important quality in a Sponsor is a big heart. Sure, it’s cool if you can talk about parenting with your Scholar or if you work in a field they’re interested in, but that’s not where the most valuable mentoring takes place.

Think back to the mentors who have made a big difference in your life. Who were those people? If you’re anything like me, they aren’t necessarily the people who have had the same experiences as you or even people who knew a lot about your career or area of interest. When I think about the most important adults in my life, it’s quite a diverse group, but they do have a common thread: they cared. A lot. They cared about me as an individual, took an interest in my life, were willing to give me tough love when necessary, and refused to let me give up on myself. All of their expertise was nice, but much less crucial than their belief in me and their insistence that I believe in myself.

When I see our most successful Scholar-Sponsor relationships, the same theme emerges. Effective mentors care. They are good listeners, and they usually do more listening than talking. They’re willing to tell the truth, even when it isn’t easy to hear. They’re reliable: they do what they say they will do, and they make promises they can keep. They don’t try to be everything or claim to be perfect and they don’t promise that they know everything. And they genuinely enjoy their mentees and want to spend time with them! 

So, in short, what makes a good mentor? I’m sticking with my original answer: a big heart.

P.S. want to learn more about mentoring best practices? Check out this great resource from the National Mentoring Partnership: http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1222.pdf

-Caroline Griswold, Program Manager