If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a room with Jessica and her 18 month-old daughter, La’rissa, you know what pure pride and joy looks like. But, 21 year-old Jessica wasn’t always so full of life. Jessica enrolled in Way to Grow during one of the most challenging times in her young life; a time when she found herself pregnant, alone, and bouncing around from shelter to shelter without any hope she could provide for herself and her unborn child.
“Within a few months, I had lost my apartment, found out I was pregnant, and lost all my friends. I was very depressed and struggled with suicidal thoughts,” Jessica admits. Angie, Jessica’s first Way to Grow Family Educator, helped her work through her emotional pain and encouraged her to find stability in her once chaotic life. “Angie was there for me at a time I didn’t have anybody else to talk to. She helped me through some tough stuff and to realize I could do this.”
When La’rissa was born, Jessica says, “It was really like something in me switched. I saw how much joy she brought out of me – it was like the world stopped. My problems didn’t matter, because she was right there,” Jessica says. This precious little human was the inspiration Jessica needed.
“I realized I didn’t want to raise my daughter on collecting checks,” Jessica states frankly. “And Ashley [my new Family Educator] has helped me work on my resume, look for jobs, and prepare for interviews during our time at Dream Tracks [Way to Grow’s teen parenting program]. Ashley has also helped me with La’rissa as she has grown. Ashley helps her practice talking more by reading books with her and asking her questions about the book. She found out that La’rissa really likes saying the different colors, playing games, and doing counting activities, so we do a lot of that at home visits. Watching her work with La’rissa helps me know what to do, like to know that building with blocks is good for her development, and she helps me find little books with questions I can ask La’rissa in the back.”
When you are a young parent, life holds a lot of ups and downs. Jessica’s path will not be easy, but with Way to Grow in her corner she looks forward to a brighter future for her and her daughter.
In 2015, we worked with over 2,300 parents and children like Jessica and La’rissa. See what else together, we accomplished in our current annual report.