Blog

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

 

Children in Poverty on the Rise

A recent study by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) shows that more children are living in poverty and our youngest children (under age 3) are particularly vulnerable.  While children represent 24 percent of the general population, they comprise 34 percent of all people in poverty.  This is a staggering number.

When we see statistics such as these, we often ask why.  Why are so many children suffering?  NCCP offers some insight that particularly resonates with Generation Hope's mission:

Being a child in a low-income or poor family does not happen by chance. There are a range of factors associated with children’s experiences of economic insecurity, including race/ethnicity and parents’ educational attainment and employment. 

When we dig further, we see that indeed 73 percent of infants and toddlers with parents who have a high school degree but no college – 1.7 million – live in low-income families.   This reinforces our belief that helping teen parents earn their college degree will increase the likelihood that their family will achieve economic stability.  

To read the full report, click here.

To get involved in our work, click here.

- Nicole

Changing Seasons: Hear from a Generation Hope Alumnus

Jordan and Jennifer at Jennifer's job during the summerA couple weeks ago, I was outside raking leaves in my front yard. I picked up a couple that truly reflected the beauty of the changing seasons. As I admired the colors of each leaf, I took in the fresh autumn breeze and thought back to the memories of the past year.

November is here, and the start of the holiday season is upon us. I feel like the past year has gone faster than the speed of light. I'm still trying to catch up! They say spring is the season of birth and new beginnings, but I must say that fall has brought new changes; a change of setting, routine, personal growth, and perspective.

Since graduating from The University of Maryland in May, I have been able to shift my focus to other meaningful things in my life. I was glad that for the first time in years, I had the summer all to myself with ZERO classes! Jordan and I celebrated his eighth birthday in style at a Washington Nationals baseball game. We spent days at the beach learning to catch waves and the evenings making bonfires with s’mores and tall tales. Soon the summer came to an end, and fall was right around the corner. 

It was time for school again, but this year was different. I wasn’t going back to my beloved campus anymore. As I read many of my friends' back to school tweets and statuses, I felt nostalgic. I was starting graduate school, but since I had now begun working full time, I was pursuing my masters degree through an online program. Quite the change from physically going to class every day! I'm working 40+ hours a week along with Jordan’s football practice three nights a week. Can you say, tired much?! Thanks to my daily commute back and forth to work on the metro, I started reading all of the books I had put aside while in school. To date, I have marked off 13 books on my list! In September, I had the experience of a lifetime and appeared alongside our Generation Hope CEO and Founder, Nicole Lynn Lewis, on the Steve Harvey Show. One word… AMAZING!!!

So that is life after college so far. It has been quite a change, but it's great. With a degree under my belt, I feel invincible, like the world is in the palm of my hand with grand opportunities surrounding me. There is nothing greater than feeling the security of being able to take care of your child and being stable in life. As Thanksgiving and the season of giving approaches, I want to say to all Generation Hope supporters, “thank you.” Thank you for believing in a cause that is opening doors for our Generation Hope family.  I have proudly surpassed the two percent, and now it's my turn to participate in the gift of giving. I have made a promise to myself that I will give back to the organization that gave hope to me, and I look forward to seeing every Scholar walk across that stage to receive their degree. 

-- Jennifer Ramirez, 2011 Scholar, The University of Maryland '12, mother to son Jordan 

 

Generation Hope Setting Trends

February 9th kicked off New York Fashion Week, and it reminded me that Generation Hope is truly a trend-setter.  No, I’m not talking about our stylish t-shirts (although they’re very cute and only $15!), I’m talking about our unique approach to bettering the D.C. community.

The big social problems – poverty, homelessness, hunger, etc. – can seem so enormous – particularly here in D.C. where the DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports that 1 in 5 residents are living at or below the poverty line.  We need organizations that provide basic, immediate needs so people can make it from one day to the next, such as homeless shelters and food banks.  But we also need an organization like Generation Hope that seeks to help our most vulnerable families achieve long-lasting stability through obtaining a higher education.  When a young mother gets her degree, she has a better chance of earning a good salary and providing her children with a stable home and food on the table.

It’s this unique approach that truly sets us apart, and I hope that our mission inspires others to think creatively about how to make lasting change.   And -- bringing this all back to fashion week -- we are also a pretty well-dressed bunch.

- Nicole



Education = A Roof Over Your Head

It's not the first thing I tell people when I meet them, "Hi, my name is Nicole, and I slept in my high school parking lot and on people's floors when I was pregnant."  But yes, it's true. 

I think shelter is an immediate concern for any teenager experiencing a pregnancy.  The reality is that you're depending on someone else's salary and kindness to provide shelter for you and your baby.  Even in the most stable situations, this can be questionable.  Things can change at any moment -- whether for emotional or economic reasons. 

When Clare, our Finance & Quality Assurance Manager, sent me this article in the Post, "Growing number of D.C. parents under 24 are seeking shelter, report finds," it broke my heart.  I have lived with that same uncertainty, and Scholars who are in our program right now are going to class each day and working multiple jobs with that uncertainty looming.

"A lack of education, particularly among young parents who haven’t completed high school, and high youth unemployment rates have exacerbated the problem, the report says." (Washington Post, 2011)

For young parents who haven't graduated from high school, shelter is a day-to-day five-alarm fire.  For those who haven't graduated from college, it's an ongoing scare. 

If we want the number of young parents and children in homeless shelters to decrease, we have to fight for their educational attainment.  We have to fight to keep them in school and to show them that there is hope.

- Nicole