My Birthday Wish

Six years ago this month, I embarked on a life-changing journey to start Generation Hope.   People told me how much work it would be and the challenges of getting a nonprofit up and running, but no one could have prepared me for how rewarding it has truly been.   

Nicole and her daughter, Nerissa, while Nicole attended the College of William & Mary as a teen mother

Nicole and her daughter, Nerissa, while Nicole attended the College of William & Mary as a teen mother

Generation Hope has grown from supporting seven teen mothers in college in 2011 with the mentoring, tuition support, and case management that they needed to thrive to now  serving 65 teen mothers and fathers across the region.  Eight teen mothers have earned bachelor's degrees through our program, and 12 more will graduate this May.  And there is more growth on the horizon.  We are now recruiting our sixth Scholar class, bringing the number of Scholars in our program to 80-85.  

I've met amazing young parents and inspiring supporters along the way.  

March is also my birthday month.  On Saturday, I'll be 36 years old, and my birthday wish is that we would receive enough gifts in honor of my birthday to send 36 of our Scholars (our newest class of students) to our annual gala, "Pep Rally Under the Stars", on June 24th.   "Pep Rally Under the Stars" is an evening of inspiration and celebration that communicates to our students that a room full of people believe in their potential.  And there is no limit to what we can do when someone simply believes in us.

Tickets to the gala are $135, but a gift of any amount will help us reach this goal.  If you can find a way to make a donation today, it will change a young parent's life -- and their child's life.

Thank you so much and happy spring!

Why Our Backpack Is So Important

Right now, we're working on our fall newsletter that will be mailed to everyone on our mailing list next month.  One of the articles is by Maggie Riden, Executive Director of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA).  I asked Maggie to share information on a survey DCAYA did on the city's homeless youth.  The findings will shock you.  Nearly 50% of DC homeless youth are young parents under the age of 24.  They're living on the streets or couch hopping with their small children.  One of the most significant causes for their being homeless?  Lack of education. 

This month, Generation Hope is holding our "Fill Our Backpack With Hope" campaign, which has a goal of raising $5,000 to spread the message that college is possible to 150 expecting or parenting high school students this year.  We custom design our college-readiness workshops for teen parents, and we go into schools, churches, homeless shelters, local agencies -- anywhere we can -- to give teen parents hope for college.  

And it works.  23% of our current Scholars were encouraged to go to college and to apply to our program through one of our workshops.

Your gift of $50 will have a major impact on our community.  It will create change where we need it most.  It will help to get young families off of the streets and on their way to lasting success.  Please make a donation today. 

Thank you.

 - Nicole


A DREAM of Equal Access to Education


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always been a hero to me.  I grew up watching his speeches and coloring his picture in school. Even at a young age, I admired his dedication, his compassion, and his ambitious views of freedom and equality for all people. Without a doubt, Dr. King has shaped my view of social entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation. 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington, we are all thinking about the hopes and ideals expressed that day and just how far we have come.  The March was a call for change in terms of racial inequality in America during the 1960's, but it touched on injustices across the human experience.  Fifty years later, the fight is not over.  We see evidence of racial inequality in this country each day.  We also see a growing chasm between "the haves and the have-nots" with lasting implications for our nation.

You have heard this quote:  "education is a right, not a privilege."  Yet, the costs of higher education, in particular, grow farther and farther away from the clutches of low-income youth.   Last week, President Obama announced his plan to make college more affordable.  In his speech at the University at Buffalo, he said: 

At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make: Either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a degree — and that’s a price that lasts a lifetime — or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won’t be able to pay it off because you’ve got so much debt.

College has never been more important.  The average salary of a four-year college graduate is $45,000 per year.  Individuals with a high school diploma are making half that much annually.  For young parents -- the population we serve here at Generation Hope -- $21,000 a year is not enough to provide a safe, stable, home for themselves and for their children.  Putting food on the table and staying healthy is a daily challenge.  Our community, and our country, will only be as strong as the families that comprise it.  When one family falls, it affects us all.

We have to do three things to address this inequality 1) spread awareness among the most disadvantaged youth that college is possible, 2) provide adequate support to increase their likelihood of graduation, and 3) enact legislation that ensures access to higher education for all. 

In the words of Dr. King:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

We must be deliberate and tireless in our fight for true equality. 

- Nicole