WASHINGTON– It’s that time of year when high school seniors are receiving acceptance letters from colleges. But, if you’re a teen parent, the idea of going to college may be a distant dream. Nicole Lewis was college bound– an honor roll student whose parents stressed the importance of education, but when she became pregnant her senior year of high school, she was told that her bright future was suddenly dim.
“I heard the same message that a lot of women hear in that situation, which is that your life is over. You’re not going to become a college graduate. You’re not going to be successful because you’re going to be a young mother.”
Not only did Lewis begin college at The College of William and Mary when her daughter was three months old, she graduated in four years. She says many of the local programs for teen parents focus on short term needs.
“A lot of the programs serving teen parents are focused on ‘get me through the next 24 hours… diapers, formula, just so I can survive day to day’ which is hugely important. But what we know really creates economic stability over the long term is education.”
That’s why she founded Generation Hope, an organization that helps teens go to college. One of the ways they reach out is through college readiness workshops.
“We go out into the schools, the public schools, the churches, the social service agencies–anywhere that’s serving young teen parents and we do what we call planting the college seed,” says Lewis. “We talk to them about the fact that college is a viable option for them after high school.”
12 Generation Hope Scholars will be receiving college degrees this May.