Two years ago, Sara was finalizing plans for her quinceañera. Her teal dress was ready, the entertainment was booked, and she was ready to celebrate her transition from being a girl to a young lady. Before the festivities commenced, Sara cancelled all the arrangements. She found out she was pregnant, and as she put it, “There aren’t very many pregnant young ladies running around at their quinceañera. But, it’s okay, I got something better.”
As a sophomore at Edison High School, Sara was promptly faced with a challenging decision. She could withdraw from school, or she could try and continue her education. To Sara, it was a no-brainer, she wanted to finish school and graduate. Mr. Charles, a social worker at Edison, instructed Sara to call him after she had her baby, and she did. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Giovanni, who is named for a famous soccer player. The very next day she called Mr. Charles to inquire about continuing with school. He referred Sara to Project MAS Homebound so she could continue with her school work even though she was on maternity leave. A homebound teacher from Project MAS visited her and helped her with all her school work. Then, after two months Sara returned to school. She recognizes that previously there was not a lot of hope for teen mothers, but now she can stay in school. As she put it, she is determined not to be a statistic.
Sara also enrolled in case-management services through the Project MAS-OAPP program. She credits Project MAS with showing her how to teach her child right from wrong without physical discipline. “Children learn what we teach them,” she said. “I’ve learned there are more simple ways. You can give them choices and set boundaries.” These parenting skills are new to Sara and with them, she feels she can be a better mom to Giovanni. The recognition that children’s behaviors can be corrected without physical force is knowledge she admits her own parents lacked. Sara also values the sodality she shares with other mothers in the program.
Recently, Sara began the process of potty-training with Giovanni. She is looking forward to days without diapers and she sought tips on the matter with other Project MAS clients. With a laugh she recalled her favorites, like putting cheerios on the rim or leaving the potty out for him to explore. “He is smart,” she says, “he’ll get it in the next couple of months.”
Sara describes herself as a risk-taker in that she tries to avoid woulda-coulda-shoulda feelings. Her sense of perseverance is something she hopes to pass on to her son. One of the most important things Sara has learned in Project MAS is to never give up and to ask for help. “You should never give up. You just find a way to get stronger.” she said. Asking for help has been a past challenge for Sara, and she admits she is glad to have a trusting relationship with her Family Support Worker (FSW). “They worry about you. You aren’t just a stranger or a case number. And you can call them if you need something.”
Sara’s main source of transportation is the bus which makes an emergency trip to the store for baby wipes a serious difficulty, and her job at Taco Cabana creates a very tight budget. The ability to call her FSW in such a jam gives Sara peace of mind and comfort.
Now Sara is a senior in high school and graduation is fast approaching. She plans on pursuing a career in criminal justice because she wants to be able to help people. As an avid volunteer with the Project MAS Teen Advisory Council and the annual Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, Sara knows it is important to give back. Sara enjoys volunteering because she likes to see people forget their problems momentarily and enjoy themselves. “I wasn’t left alone like many other girls are.” Sara says. “I had Project MAS and The Children’s Shelter.” After two years in Project MAS, Sara is confident in her ability to balance future challenges successfully— like potty training and college.
For more info about Project MAS and The Children’s Shelter visit www.ChildrensShelter.org.