2015 Grantee Partners

Women’s Fund Grants to Forsyth County Schools Help Latina Teen Moms
and Their Children Move Forward on the Road to Success

A former high school dropout and single mother Carmiña* is determined to make a better life for her children. With a limited income and imperfect English, Carmiña realized that the road to success required going back to school to obtain her high school diploma. Thanks to a Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) program for Latina teen mothers, many Latina single mothers are back in school. In fact, working with Gricelda Mendez, a bilingual outreach worker whose position was funded through grants from The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, 22 Latina mothers graduated in June 2009—more than double the number that graduated the year before.

Latina teens have the highest pregnancy rate in Forsyth County: In 2006, there were 124 babies born to Latina teens. Of the approximately 600 young mothers ages 12 through 18 in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County public schools, Lockwood serves about half of them; one-third of these mothers are Latina.

Latina teen moms face a number of cultural and financial barriers to getting an education: lack of basic necessities, inadequate housing and childcare, domestic violence, incarceration of the children’s father, and low-self-esteem. They may receive pressure at home to leave school so that they won’t have to pay for child care and can bring in money to contribute to the family income.

Studies show that a mother’s level of education correlates with a child’s success in school. Mothers who get a high school diploma or GED improve their children’s success as well as improve their own chances of obtaining U.S. citizenship and better employment.

“We help the young mothers with just about anything that has to do with being a mother and a student,” said Faith Lockwood, WSFCS Social Worker for Teen Mothers and their Children, from obtaining child care and school supplies, to guiding them through the social service, Medicaid, housing and court systems.

A native Spanish speaker, Mendez serves as a confidante, role model and interpreter for 100 Latina teen moms, providing them with encouragement and assistance with everyday problems. She visits with the teens, hears their stories, and helps them find child care, school supplies, food stamps, health care, and cash assistance for their children. A 23-year-old single mother of four children, Mendez relates well to the Latina teen moms: she is just now finishing her GED, too.

Lockwood reports that since the first grant, Latina girls staying in school rose from 64% to 69%. Seventy-eight percent of the moms were still enrolled at the end of the school year. A higher percentage of their children are learning English before entering kindergarten, increasing their own chances of school success. “This would not have been possible without The Women’s Fund,” said Lockwood.

* Carmina is a pseudonym and represents a typical participant in the Latina Moms Program.

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