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When we asked 18-year old mother, Gabrielle, about her dreams for her young son Caleb, she answered just as any mother would: "I want him to do well in school, graduate, go to college, and do something he loves."
But Gabrielle knows that in order to give her son the best opportunity to accomplish his dreams, she must lead by example.
And she is doing so. At the end of year celebration for St. Ann’s High School - a component of St. Ann’s Center’s Education and Employment Program - Principal Valerie Swain announced that Gabrielle had advanced to the 12th grade and was on track to graduate in May 2015.
Once the applause settled down, Ms. Swain added that Gabrielle had also been accepted into a competitive work-study program for her Senior Year, affording her the opportunity to attend school in the morning and work at a paid internship in the afternoons. Her internship placement would be with a local business, where she has volunteered and worked part-time for nearly three years.
Everyone in the room - from Gabrielle’s classmates to St. Ann’s staff and volunteers - knew that this was an enormous accomplishment, particularly for a young woman who arrived at St. Ann's when she was just 16 years-old, nine months pregnant, and homeless.
While Gabrielle's day is filled by her studies and her paid internship this year, Caleb will be enrolled in St. Ann's on-site Child Care Center. She looks forward to him being able to socialize with children his age and the parenting guidance she will receive from his child care instructors.
Last spring, when Gabrielle became worried that Caleb wasn't picking up new words as quickly as other children his age, the Child Care Center arranged an appointment for them with a speech therapist to measure his progress on important developmental milestones. After confirming Gabrielle's concerns about Caleb's vocabulary, the speech therapist recommended that Gabrielle encourage him to try new words through interactive reading activities.
Gabrielle began reading aloud to Caleb every night. As with every resident, she had been given a collection of age-appropriate children's books by St. Ann's staff. "Right now, our favorite book is a collection of Dr. Seuss stories." She is already noticing improvements in Caleb's vocabulary.
Gabrielle hopes that one day her accomplishments will inspire Caleb to work hard in school, but for now she credits her academic motivation to another young mother.
"Last year there was a girl in the [Teen Mother-Baby] program who graduated from St. Ann's High School. We all watched her walk down the aisle and accept her diploma. She is my role model."