Teen Moms in fifth year of helping high school parents

By Terry Lehrke

Being a mother is a tough job even for the most experienced.

For a teenager still in high school, being a mother is tougher still.

In 2002, a group of volunteer women, under the auspices of Central Minnesota Youth for Christ (CMYFC), got together to organize the local “Teen Moms” program so as to help these teen mothers.

The faith-based group of women receive training through CMYFC, and housing, if needed, can be provided. But the volunteers raise their own funds for the Morrison County program, that includes prenatal and parenting skills classes for high school mothers, baby items needed for child care, a mentor program and networking activities.

Allison Lundeen, a member of the volunteer group, said the prenatal and parenting skills classes are offered at the hospital and through the district as well. But, she said, there are so many stresses that come with being a teen mom, going to classes, holding a job, taking care of a child-that many times the girls don’t need one more thing to attend, or have the time to do so.

So, the group goes to them, during their school day, making it much more likely that they will attend the classes.

Meeting weekly throughout the school year at the Continuing Education Center (CEC) at the St. Francis Campus in Little Falls, the class is open to high school girls throughout the county. Girls are offered transportation from their school to CEC.

The prenatal and parenting classes are given by trained professionals who are provided a stipend for their services. Since the group is responsible for raising the money needed for expenses incurred, fund-raising events are held. Other needed money comes from outreach funds through local churches and private donations.

Several members of the volunteer group go through training to provide mentoring relationships for the girls involved in the program.

Michaela DeLong, 18, of Little Falls finished her coursework in March, and earned her high school diploma from the Continuing Education Center May 24.

Michaela was a student at Little Falls Community High School until she was about seven months pregnant, then went to the Continuing Education Center. She said, “It was just easier that way. I couldn’t fit in the desks any longer.”

Michaela was a part of the Teen Moms program for two years. Her daughter is now 15 months old.

“It’s a nice group to be in. You learn about parenting,” said Michaela. “They had a ‘Love and Logic’ program where you learn how to tell your kids ‘no.'”

She said, “My favorite part was getting to know the people-the other moms who were in school and had a kid. They understood. Having a kid and going to school is not easy.”

“This group has provided wonderful services to our students in a collaborative manner. It is incredible the amount of volunteer hours so many people are willing to dedicate to our students,” said Laura Dunlap, social worker and coordinator at CEC.

“The group benefits the students and their children by providing parent and prenatal education, role modeling, friendship, mentoring and support. The young women can ask any question or discuss any personal situation in a comfortable, caring environment,” said Dunlap. “What an incredible commitment this group of volunteers has made and what a difference they have made in the lives of so many young mothers. The Teen Mom group is an asset to the CEC, and the staff and students are grateful for their dedication to our program.”

Even though the Teen Moms group does not meet during the summer months, the mentors are available, and the girls have phone numbers of the volunteers to contact if they are needed. It is during the summer months that much of the fund-raising for the program is done.

Once the school year commences in the fall, the group will once again meet weekly.

For more information about the Teen Moms program, call Allyson Lundeen (320) 632-5015 or Sandy Palo (320) 632-8777.

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