Hear from young moms (both current and past participants) as they talk about their experience at New Moms and share their hopes for the future! You can read stories of families in each of our three programs – Housing, Job Training, and Family Support – and alumni.
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Latisha was newly married and pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor referred her to New Moms so she could have extra support while battling cancer and becoming a mom for the first time.
She said joining prenatal support group and working directly with a New Moms doula – a specialized coach that supports moms through their pregnancy, birth, and post-partum period – helped her focus on her pregnancy. She said it would have been hard to keep a positive attitude with everything going on if she didn’t have others accompanying her.
Latisha is now the proud mother of two girls, Luna and La’Rayna, and has been in remission for three years. She is 24 years old, and as part of her dedicated to being the best parent she can be, she is currently partnered with a New Moms Family Support Coach. She said she has stuck with the program because she is always learning something new. New Moms is a great resource, she said, because coaches work directly with young moms to meet their specific needs whether it be housing referrals or potty training advice.
Right now, Latisha is enjoying being a stay-at-home mom and raising her girls. Her future goal is to set up a catering company with her husband that they can eventually leave to her children. She previously worked as a chef and wants to break into the food truck and pop-up restaurant scene. She’s been experimenting with vegan and heart healthy cuisine in preparation but her favorite type of food to cook is breakfast food.
To other stay-at-home moms, Latisha says remember to “take time for yourself” and that “you can still learn.” She said being a mom 24/7 is impossible, and in order to stay strong moms need to love themselves too. “How can you give love if you don’t know how to love yourself?” Latisha said.
On the morning of August 1st, María and her infant son Jacob walked across the graduation stage of Morton East High’s 2020 socially distanced graduation. With her son in her arms, a sarape and National Honors Society stole around her shoulders, and a decorated cap on her head, María was awarded her high school diploma.
On the top of her graduation cap was the phrase “¡Mi puse las pilas por ti!” María said she chose this saying because as a young, working mom, finishing school was challenging but she “gave it her all” for her son.
“When we were small, my parents always said “ponte las pilas” it’s like saying put in the batteries, so you could get energy,” Maria explained. “[My cap says] I put the batteries in for you, so mi puse las pilas para mi bebé – for my baby.”
María found out she was pregnant when she was a 16-year-old high school sophomore. Her school counselor referred her to New Moms and she was connected with one of our doulas—an advocate who helps young women with physical, informational, and emotional support as they prepare for birth and early parenthood—and one of our personal coaches called family support specialists.
New Moms has a long-standing relationship with Morton East High School and has run a young mother’s support group there for several years. María joined the group and said it was an important place where she could take a break and share her experience with other young moms.
“You can get an idea of what other moms go through,” María said. “There are all these changes that are going on through the pregnancy, so sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh is this normal?’ Google doesn’t always have those answers, and it’s better to have those other moms who went through that and have the experience instead of just asking Google.”
In addition to participating in the young mothers support group, María was also involved in the National Honor Society and Bilingual Club, and took several advanced classes. She said her family put a strong emphasis on education when she was growing up which motivated her to get involved in extracurriculars and to take A.P. classes.
Even when it became difficult to balance school responsibilities and work with motherhood, she said she still dedicated herself to her educational goals.
“Since I was off junior year, I was behind in all of these classes, and my G.P.A. went down, so senior year was a really tough year,” María said. “I was going through [post-partum] depression and lots of anxiety and stress, but I was able to pull my grades up lastminute so I could graduate on time.”
Because of her commitment to her academics as well as her school community, María had a positive relationship with her teachers and school administration. She said therefore she was able to bring her son Jacob on stage with her.
“They knew I had a baby and I was taking pictures with him, and instead of putting him in the car, they allowed me to walk on stage with my baby,” María said. “A lot of moms have their baby during graduation, but they don’t walk on stage with their baby and I believe I was the first one!”
María said her plans are to apply to college in the spring, but right now she’s working and enjoying spending time with Jacob. She said she’s grateful for the New Moms support group and feels empowered to share her own birth story and what she learned from the experience with others.
“After having the support from the group, I started helping other people that go through the same situation,” María said. “It made me compassionate towards other teen parents, teen moms, and it makes me want to help them out.”
After the death of several loved ones, Sydell struggled with her grief and eventually dropped out of high school. She reenrolled the next fall to complete her senior year, but discovered she was pregnant just a few months later.
“That summer, I was in a really dark place,” said Sydell, who was 19 at the time. “Then I told myself ‘I’ve got to get out of this. I’m not like this.’ So, I went back to school and then I found out I was pregnant. These obstacles just kept coming in my way.”
She said she hid her pregnancy from her classmates because she was embarrassed and didn’t want them to judge her. She even waited until 3 months to tell her mother because she they don’t have the best relationship.
Sydell, now 21 years old, was referred to New Moms by someone at school and connected with our Family Support program. She started home visits with her personal coach, Jasmine Stewart, and prepared for the birth of her daughter, Sophia.
Sophia is now Sydell’s biggest motivator. She said she wants Sophia to believe in her dreams and to know that she is always going to be there for her no matter what.
“I never pictured myself having a kid until I had her,” she said. “It was crazy. I didn’t think I was going to cry when I had her. [But] I cried when I had her because it was like ‘wow’ I really have a baby. It’s real.”
Sydell said she is proud of how she has matured during her time with New Moms. One of her goals was to better control her temper because she used to bottle up her emotions and then act out. She said she doesn’t want her daughter to see her angry, so she has been working on finding more positive ways to process her emotions.
She said writing is one of the best outlets. She said she likes writing screenplays best because she has always loved movies and theatre. She is currently working on a film inspired by the 2Pac song “Brenda’s Got a Baby” that’s based on her own experience and the experiences of other young moms. She said her dream is to one day win an Oscar.
Her immediate goal is to enroll in college either to study writing and film or to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). She said wants to find a program that is flexible and allows her to keep her job at Jewel Osco and take classes. She would also like to move into her own apartment and get her driver’s license.
Sydell felt so welcomed and supported by the New Moms community that she has referred at least five other young moms to the program. Her coach Jasmine said Sydell been a true advocate for her peers.
Her advice to other moms is to find programs like New Moms and surround themselves with supportive people. She wants other women to stop doubting themselves.
“Everybody needs to follow their dreams no matter what,” Sydell said. “No matter what anybody says. Not matter how is looks. […] There’s always a way to get what you want.”
Sheantavia knows the importance of having supportive relationships. She said she almost gave up during labor with her first child, but her New Moms’ doula is the one who helped her press on.
“There’s never too many people. There’s never too much help,” said the 25-year-old mother of two. “My doula was like ‘no, you can keep doing it.’”
Doulas at New Moms work with expecting mothers to provide emotional, physical, informational, and psychological support during their pregnancy and birth experience.
Sheantavia said she deeply connected with her doula, Mary, who she started meeting with while she was pregnant.
“We kind of like had a bond and I miss her lots,” Sheantavia said.
When Sheantavia found out she was pregnant with her second child, she knew immediately that she wanted to work with New Moms again.
“I said ‘yep, I’m definitely going back to New Moms for the doula services. Definitely.’”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she wasn’t able to have her doula, Chevy Flores, with her at delivery like she wanted. Sheantavia said she was disappointed, but it helped knowing Chevy was only one call away.
In addition to being part of our doula program, Sheantavia is also enrolled in our Family Support program and meets regularly with one of our New Moms coaches. Her coach says Sheantavia has grown showing real strength as a woman and mother.
“She has shown great resiliency and began taking lead on her own to do better for herself and her children,” said Ayeshah, a New Moms Family Support coach. “She has been very consistent and remains engaged during our virtual visits.”
Sheantavia said she’s found working with Ayesha very helpful because keeps her focused on her short-term and long-term goals. Right now, her priority is to have a job but eventually, Sheantavia said she wants to enroll in college and take online classes. She said being pregnant during a pandemic put her in a tough financial situation but recently she started a job at Walgreens stocking shelves. Long term, she dreams of opening her own daycare because she likes working with kids.
She said she would tell other young moms to “stick with” New Moms because she’s felt supported and cared for by our staff when she needed it most.
Lauryn was pursuing her associate’s degree at Trident College and transitioning into a new job when she found out she was pregnant with her son Cameron – Cam for short. At the time, her long-term plan included earning her business degree and eventually owning her own property management business. With the news of her pregnancy, she remained committed to those goals but knew she needed to adjust her timeline. She became determined to graduate before she had her baby.
Lauryn was referred to New Moms by a friend and first enrolled in our pre-natal group. Lauryn said she arranged to leave work early each week so she could make it to every single meeting. During this time, she also started working with one of our New Moms doulas and home visiting coaches in preparation for her son’s birth. Because of COVID-19, her Doula, Mary, was unable to be at the hospital when Lauryn gave birth to Cam. However, Lauryn said the experience was still very positive because Mary made sure she was excellently prepared.
Cam is now almost 10 months old and Lauryn continues to meet with her New Moms coach, Jennifer. She calls these virtual home visits her “weekly pep talk.” Lauryn said she looks forward to their meetings because she thinks of Jennifer as a big sister or mentor.
“Sometimes you don’t want to tell your parents, ‘I’m feeling like a bad parent today’ because people hold that against you like for the rest of your life,” Lauryn said. “I know I can tell Jen ‘I feel like a bad parent today’ but she’s going to come back and give me some type of positive reinforcement to shake this feeling and to move on.”
Lauryn works hard to balance school, work, and motherhood. Her long-term goals include finishing her bachelor’s degree in business and eventually purchasing some properties. She is currently enrolled in an 18-month business management program from National Lewis University. She said she wants to “knock out” school while Cam is still little, so she can be an active parent when he starts school.
Lauryn encourages other young moms to partner with New Moms saying, “New Moms is for everyone, especially because you get a sense of sisterhood when you connect with you home visit coaches. I feel like that’s really important.”
“New Moms gets to know you.”
Jazmin was eight months pregnant with her second son when she moved to Chicago from Mexico. She said connecting with New Moms gave her a community to rely on and helped her get settled into a new country.
“New Moms isn’t just ‘you get Pampers and wipies,’” said Jazmin, the proud mother of Jonathan (5) and Allen (3). “You can have a person to talk, to open up to, to hear you and not judge you. And some of the other participants, or even the coaches, they can share personal experiences with you too. You build friendships. It makes me feel like I’m not the only one on this journey.”
Over the last few years, Jazmin has worked with her New Moms coaches to securing housing, buy a car, and find reliable childcare so she could start a new job. Her future goals include creating a formal house budget and savings plan with the help of her current coach, Magy.
Jazmin is most proud of learning to be kind to herself during her time at New Moms and realizing that no one is a perfect parent.
“I’m not the only one that struggles,” said the 26-year-old Jazmin. “You learn through your journey. You’re not a bad mom if you don’t know how to do stuff. You’re learning while you’re raising your kids. New Moms teaches you that you’re not alone. If you have questions or problems, they’re there.”
Jazmin said her favorite part of the Family Support program is the parent support groups where young moms come together to learn from and take comfort in each other. Once one person “opened up their heart” everyone felt more comfortable she said.
Because of the pandemic, New Moms’ parent support groups have switched from in-person to virtual which Jazmin said has been a hard adjustment. She said it’s difficult for moms to open up on camera and that after almost a year, everyone is experiencing Zoom fatigue.
“On Zoom it’s like, ‘does anybody have a question?’ and everyone is like ‘no.’ That’s the difference,” Jazmin said. “Even if we still try to have the communication through Zoom, I feel like it’s not the same, but everybody still tries.”
Despite all of the changes to programs, Jazmin said she is grateful that New Moms stayed open during the pandemic – adjusting services rather than shutting down completely.
“I just thank God that New Moms didn’t close because a lot of stuff closed due to COVID. Hopefully, it gets better, and we can do things together again.”
Olivia’s vibrant and positive personality is contagious, and gives some insight into the inner strength that has carried her through some challenging times in her life. Born and raised in Garfield Park, she had a stable family life, until age 17, when her mother passed away. At 23, she lost her job, apartment, and was pregnant.
She found shelter at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, and was introduced to New Moms’ family support and job training programs during her stay. She immediately recognized the serious need for New Moms in her life and in the community.
Olivia became a participant at New Moms and was matched with a doula. When her doula left on maternity leave, Luecendia Reed, our Assistant Director of Family Support Programs, stepped in and was by Olivia’s side for the birth of her daughter, Giselle. Luecendia remembers Olivia “was always an advocate for herself,” and “was a bright light in the group.” After Olivia finished her time in the Family Support and Job Training programs, an Outreach Specialist position became available at New Moms. Luecendia knew she’d be the perfect fit and encouraged Olivia to apply. She got the job! After serving Olivia during her time as a participant, Luecendia is now Olivia’s supervisor. It’s no surprise that they have a special bond. Luecendia says Olivia is “always willing to learn and wanting to do her best in each role,” and has thrived at New Moms.
Olivia hopes her story can help someone else going through a similar difficult situation. She credits New Moms with giving her tremendous room for growth—spiritually, professionally, and in parenting—and hopes to inspire that in the young moms she serves. Olivia hopes to return to college and receive her bachelor’s and master’s degrees —“I need my daughter to see me succeed so she can feel comfortable succeeding” as an African American woman in the workplace. Olivia truly makes an impact on everyone she meets and is an incomparable member of the New Moms family.
Alicia was 24 years old, had a three-year-old, and was five months pregnant with her second child when she joined New Moms’ Job Training program. Three years later, Alicia reflects back on her time in the Job Training program. Her experience at Bright Endeavors helped her gain employment and independence as she learned new skills. Finding friendship and mentorship through Jasmine, a fellow participant, she blossomed and came out of her shell.
Success came when she was referred to a position at the nonprofit, Helping Hand Partners, and was hired! Helping Hand Partners then created social enterprise, 1Eleven, which produces candles, soaps, and bath salts, where Alicia became Supervisor of Warehouse/Production in the spring of 2018! She directly uses the skills she gained at Bright Endeavors within her role.
Through Bright Endeavors, she discovered her creative side and how “working on a team made me feel like a leader because I was helping others who struggled. It was hard for me to recognize what my skills and strengths were—Bright Endeavors gave me a vision of what I could do.” Alicia now lives with her three children and her partner, Patrick. She enjoys braiding hair and bowling, and dreams of one day owning her own business.
When Cheryl came to New Moms from Open Door shelter in 1997, she was 17 years old with a one year old daughter and no stability or support at home. She immediately found the structure and discipline needed to graduate from high school. Cheryl discovered from New Moms that “good people do exist in the world,” and became especially connected with her case manager, Sally Gamble, with whom she still keeps in contact today.
Cheryl was able to leave the housing program after only one year and move out with her daughter on their own after receiving a job as administrative assistant with the Hilton Hotel. From there, with no experience but a willingness to learn, Cheryl began a lengthy career journey through hospitality, graphic design, IT management, and accounting.
She has since received her Associate’s degree and numerous certificates from Kaplan University. Last year, Cheryl started her own career consulting company, Impress IQ, crediting her dynamic path and humble beginnings for her ability “to help people meet their potential.” She now lives in Houston, TX with her four children, but Cheryl will always credit New Moms for providing a safe environment to allow her to focus on her next steps. Cheryl aims to one day become a COO based on her love for people and desire to give back. To current New Moms participants she advises, “You can do whatever you want to do as long as you believe in yourself.”
LaToya was 22, her daughter was two years old and her son was five when she started our Job Training program in 2015. LaToya and her children were living with her aunts, while she worked at Taco Bell. After two years she had risen to shift manager, but wanted to work in a professional environment with career growth.
At Bright Endeavors, LaToya excelled in her work, and got to take part in special events, like being interviewed on “The Chew,” and joining CEO Laura Zumdahl in receiving a $25,000 check! LaToya said Bright Endeavors taught her to “use the measuring of candles as a balance. It’s similar to how I’m trying to balance my life,” and how the daily appreciation practices taught her to “use the appreciation and take it far. I go to my aunts now and tell them how I appreciate them for taking care of my kids. Learning to appreciate things is an important life lesson.”
LaToya finished the program early when she was hired at Value City Furniture—where she’s been ever since! Starting as a customer service representative, LaToya went on to be assistant manager, and now a sales manager.
LaToya’s message for current participants: “It’s a tough program but if you’re determined you can get it done. Don’t give up, don’t lose focus, and don’t lose hope. Once coming out of the New Moms program it will help you and your children for the better in the future. There’s definitely a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
“Being in programs like New Moms kind of changed the trajectory of where I wanted to be.”
In 1998, Ingrid was pregnant with her first child and a friend referred her to New Moms. She stayed in the program through 2000. Ingrid is now the proud owner of her own business, the mother of three adult children, and recently bought a house with her husband in Berwin.
She said during her time at New Moms she learned a lot about herself, and the type of parent she wanted to be. Her experience made her more thoughtful and made her want to do more with her kids. She really committed to being a very active parent that sang, danced, played make-believe, and took her kids on outings.
“My husband says I’m probably the only person who knows every nursery rhyme there ever was.” she laughed.
She said her favorite part about New Moms was the community. She remembers helping cook dinner for parent support group, going on the retreat trip with the other moms, and completing the parent-child activities her coach brought to their home visits.
That sense of community continued after she aged out of the program. She was able to stay in touch with other moms because their children went to the same schools. In an interesting twist of fate, a good friend of hers turned out to be a New Moms’ alumni and so did her mail carrier. Ingrid said she is also part of an unofficial “New Moms Founding Members” chat on Facebook which has helped her keep connected over the years.
To the current participants at New Moms, Ingrid says they should be happy they reached out for help and she’s proud of them for being willing to seek out resources. She said one of her best decisions was simply starting the program and “going through the door.” Reflecting back, Ingrid said it was all the small changes she was able to make in her life while at New Moms that eventually lead to big positive changes.
She wanted to remind young moms that even when it’s hard to keep going.
“Even if you’ve got to do it with tears in your eyes – keep going. Because there’s many days that I had to go sit in the bathroom stall like on “Mean Girls” and just cry. Then I splashed some cold water on my face and kept going because there were people depending on me. I’ve lost jobs. Lost parents. But the motivating factor is that I have someone depending on me and I need to carry the torch as far as I can carry it because I need them to be the ones to take it to the next level.”
Tina applied to join New Moms’ Workforce Development program in early 2013. She had a newborn daughter, and was looking for support, in order to grow professionally and become a role model for her new baby girl. She came to the program hoping to learn job skills, but also how to juggle motherhood with the working world.
Although Tina explored other career paths throughout her time in Workforce Development, she kept coming back to her passion for baking. Tina set her career goal: to become a pastry chef. On one career outing with her Workforce class, Tina had a chance to tour Le Cordon Bleu, where she learned how much training she would need in order to pursue her dream.
Through our program, Tina learned critical job-readiness skills, improving her communication, time management, and customer service skills; as well as how to balance family life with work. Her Supportive Employment Specialist worked individually with her to locate a great daycare facility, learn to balance her bank accounts, and budget her paychecks.
After graduating from Workforce Development, Tina signed up for a program that would train her to become a pastry chef. She immersed herself in her craft, while working part time at Mariano’s, as a cake decorator. This well-paying job allowed her to support her family while gaining on-the-job experience in her chosen field.
“Without New Moms, I would have never gotten my career started. I wouldn’t have known where to start.” With guidance from her Supportive Employment Specialist, Tina now balances parenthood, full-time school, and part-time work. At New Moms, she found a community of support, which provided the encouragement she needed, as a young mother.
A southern native who still doesn’t love the cold, Nandia moved to Chicago in 2011 with her mom after her aunt got sick. After graduating high school and losing her aunt, Nandia headed back to the south and eventually returned to Chicago with a baby in tow.
Her mom recommended the job training program at New Moms. Nandia called and asked what she needed, came for orientation, and entered the July cohort. “I’ve had really good, positive vibes since I started this program.”
Nandia took a break from Bright Endeavors while she found daycare for her daughter. Despite a break and a two hour commute, Nandia returned to the job training program and working at Bright Endeavors. Nandia came back for the professional skills training, having other moms to share stories about motherhood with, and the mock interviews and resume help. “It [this program] has changed my spirit.”
Nandia will graduate in December from the job training program, has a secured job at UPS, and is enrolled to go back to school in January. “If you have big dreams, just follow them.”
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