Hear from young moms (both current and past participants) as they talk about their experience at New Moms. Click on the name of a participant to expand or shrink her story!
As part of our 2022 Valentine’s Day Celebration, young moms in our Academic Coaching program were asked to write love letters to themselves and/or to their children. Here are Amber’s letters in her own words:
Write a Love Letter to Your Children
To my children, my daughters, without you all I’m nothing. Everything I do is for you. I will keep going. I won’t give up. I am here through it all. Sick, hurt, happy, sad, mad, I’m here and always will be. Your pure little hearts. I can’t wait to see who you will become. You can do anything you put your mind to. You are beautiful and intelligent and just know I love you and always will.
Write a Love Letter to Yourself
To me, you’re strong. You have a good heart. You’re the best mother you can be. Your heart is pure and you love hard. Though your days get harder, have faith in yourself, put your best foot forward, and go get what you want. Your kind, sweet, and loving. It will pay off soon.
As part of our 2022 Valentine’s Day Celebration, young moms in our Academic Coaching program were asked to write love letters to themselves and/or to their children. Here are Anastacia’s letters in her own words:
Love letter to my kids
To my wonderful kids Jamaine and Ramone, I love being your mommy. I love waking up, making breakfast for you. I love your cires and your beautiful eyes. I love the way you two look at me and those hugs you give. For the moments mommy is tired or frustrated, I am sorry. You two complete my life. When I go to work and when I got to school, just know I do it all for you. Jamaine, you came into my life when I was 19, 21 days away from being 20. You gave my life more purpose. Ramone, you came into my life last year and brought us more life and love.
A love letter to myself
On the days I am unsure, I keep going. I am beautiful. I am smart. I am enough. I am a great mother.
As part of our 2022 Valentine’s Day Celebration, young moms in our Academic Coaching program were asked to write love letters to themselves and/or to their children. Here are Comopsia’s letters in her own words:
Love Letter to Your Child
To my baby girl, I can say so much about you. The love I have for you is unconditional. I remember the first miscarriage I had. I was hurt but when I conceived you February 14th, on Valentine’s Day, I felt in some type of way you are my rainbow baby. I am so blessed. I am glad to be your mom. You mean so much to me. I can say a lot about it. It brings tears to my eyes that I can say how much you changed me, my mind, my heart. I love you princess, I got you forever my princess/baby/rainbow baby. You are truly my best friend my mini me.
Love Letter to Yourself
The love I have for myself is weird because my standards have gotten so high. I just want to be accepted and not be judged.
For Black History Month (February 2022), Daja was asked to tell us about a milestone she was proud of accomplishing. Below is her answer, written in her own words.
“My biggest goal in life was finishing college. I got pregnant at the age of 18, [I was] homeless, no money, and much more. I was crying, always worrying about how I was gonna provide for my son. I had to do everything myself. It was hard finding a job because a lot of people weren’t hiring woman, pregnant, and unstable. I eventually found a job working at Denny’s and that was my start.
I am the intelligent, smart, bright young woman I am today with the help of my son and peaceful surroundings. Ever since I started working at Bright Endeavors, it has been nothing by non-stop love. Ms. Cathy and Mrs. Natisha are like guardian angels to me, they have gave me works of wisdom and courage, despite all my obstacles. They have made me a better woman, friend, and employee. I learn something new from them every day, without their help I would be so lost so I love them dearly and I appreciate them in every way. My coworkers have shown me a lot as well. We have created this safe space for one another where we can hang out, talk, lots of laughter, it’s such a beautiful energy and vibe. It makes working here 10x better.
As we follow into Black History Month, let’s remember all the intellectual, intelligent, gorgeous, Black women that helped raise us, guide us, mold us into who we are today. We as a unit of Black moms raising our daughters and sons to grow up and appreciate the skin we are in, the minds we have taught, the manners we have equipped, the words we have digested into our children to become bigger and better than what we are, and as we stand beside them all be proud because the future started with us.”
“The best thing of being a mom is knowing that I get to love and care for someone for the rest of my life. Seeing my creation, laying with him. His name is Kingston Mael King Bell.”
-Danijah, Family Support Participant
For Black History Month (February 2022), Janiya was asked to tell us about a milestone she was proud of accomplishing. Below is her answer, written in her own words.
“I am proud of my time management improving. I’m also proud of running into lifetime mentors. My people skills, and Executive Skills have improved also. I also been introduced to more helpful parenting skills, I’ve been actually setting goals and sticking to it. And I want to give a big shout out to New Moms for clearing my vision, I see things bigger.
And you can do anything you put your mind to, and I’m saying that with so much confidence! You have to see potential in yourself before anybody could, when you be yourself everything will eventually fall in place. My everything has grown since I been here honestly. I want to thank every woman that helped, it really helped, and I’m using these for life and I’m also pass them onto others.”
Kamilah is excited about her future! She graduated from Marine Leadership Academy in June and will be starting at Truman College this fall. She said becoming a mom changed her life for the better and that, “New Moms has really helped in a lot of ways.”
Before coming to New Moms, Kamilah was having trouble in school. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she also experienced depression and felt angry being stuck at home. She said she had a negative attitude and often acted out. However, that all “went away” when she became pregnant. She said she developed more maturity and motivation when she found out she was going to be a mom.
Kamilah partnered with New Moms when she was four months pregnant with her son Hugo. She was paired with Tia, a doula (or birth coach), to help her through the final stages of her pregnancy and prepare for labor. Simultaneously, she started working with Precious, a family support coach, to help her in other areas of life. She said her coaches, especially Precious, have become like family.
“We low-key created a bond with her,” said Kamilah, who is 18 years old. “She makes sure the baby is developed. She brings books, diapers, and everything to make sure that we have enough.”
Kamilah said Precious helped keep her on track in school – checking her grades and helping her find opportunities to complete her service hour requirement for graduation. Precious also helped Kamilah fill out her FAFSA so she could afford to go to college. Kamilah was awarded two scholarships and plans to take cosmetology classes so she can open her own salon. Later this summer, Kamilah and her boyfriend will be moving into their first apartment, and they are both excited to create a home for their young family.
“New Moms does a good job of making you feel like family but also putting pressure on you and motivating you,” Kamilah said.
Although the first steps of motherhood are hard, Kamilah wants to let other moms know that they “still need to move past it.”
“It takes a lot of time but that doesn’t mean you should give up,” Kamilah said. “Because every day you’re going to wake up with your son or your daughter and they’re going to be smiling at you. And it kind of gives you some hope. You just want to do everything you can for them. So just don’t give up on what you want.”
Kamille reflects on her experience with her New Moms doula, also known as a birth coach, Eusebia (Chevy) Flores.
“I have one of the best doulas ever! It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout my pregnancy. She’s been so helpful, calming and reassuring. She takes the nerves off being a new mom! Makes me feel like I actually got this and that I’m doing a great job. She answers all my questions no matter what time it is and how repetitive they may be. I love having a doula especially Chevy and I recommend all my friends on social media to get one every chance I get, cause it’s taken so much pressure off.”
Naomi is one of the many young moms we work with whose plans were derailed by unforeseen challenges. Since she was eight years old, she dreamed of becoming a doctor. She had been raised in the foster system and recently experienced the grief of losing her brother by murder. She persevered and got into college, but in her junior year, the pandemic hit and classes went online. Naomi chose to wait for classes to resume in person, and during that time she became pregnant. Moving to Wisconsin to be with her child’s father, she began to experience domestic violence, and while escaping this dangerous situation, she also became homeless.
Her dreams on hold, Naomi went into survival mode seeking support and housing. She found New Moms and moved into our housing program just two weeks before giving birth to healthy and beautiful Giovanni. Because of New Moms, Naomi and her son had a safe home to come back to and begin their life together.
As a new parent, she also has the support of New Moms coaches to lean on. Naomi recalled her coach, Magy’s, guidance: “She helped me understand my son. Because this is my first time parenting, I don’t know what to look for or what to work on specifically. Little things that she pointed out has helped me keep my son on track.”
Since starting at New Moms, Naomi has had the support she needs to get back on track to pursue her dream. She has eagerly joined every program we offer, including our Job Training and Academic Coaching programs. Just this May, she began a new job at Candycopia, a local employment partner who is passionate about supporting New Moms’ mission. And Naomi is re-enrolled in college classes part-time to work towards completing her Bachelor’s degree!
As part of our 2022 Valentine’s Day Celebration, young moms in our Academic Coaching program were asked to write love letters to themselves and/or to their children. Here are Naomi’s letters in her own words:
What do you love about yourself?
Naomi, I love you for hanging on and continuing to be a positive person who goes for the best she can dream of in the world.
Naomi, I love you for being a friend to everyone. You’ve been taught through your own life that it is rough and treats people unfairly even when it looks as if everything could be better. And with that lesson, you have chosen to be that light that someone else might need to get through their personal dark.
Naomi, I love you for being strong in your beliefs and defense. You are a force to be reckoned with, and will stand up to anyone in any position for what is right. That is bravery and a rare trait, but you have it!
Naomi for ALL THESE REASONS I LOVE YOU!
Write a love letter to your child
I love you more than words can say. You came to me at a time when everything was confusing, empty, falling apart. You came to me as a complete baby boy, full of laughter and curiosity, while I was full of fear and doubt about being the best I could be for you when I felt like everything I could’ve offered you was no longer an option.
But here you are. Here with everything you could need and more. Beyond content with our little family, our little studio, our busy schedule, full of a lot of love. Thank you for being the smile that greets me every morning, rain or shine. Thank you for finding joy in the little silly things I do and thank you for loving me. Gio, no matter what, and for everything, I love you!
For Black History Month (February 2022), Philycia (Philly) was asked to tell us about a milestone she was proud of accomplishing. Below is her answer, written in her own words.
“One goal that I am proud of is not spending money on unnecessary things such as eating out a lot, driving places that I don’t necessarily need to go. I am proud of this because I used to spend a lot of money on things and not have enough money for the following week. Now, I can say that since I have learned self-control and really separated my wants from my needs, I have about $50 more per week. It might not be much but it is a start and I plan on being able to save more than $50 per week.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month (March 20220), we’ve asked the New Moms community to share how they have experienced “women providing healing and promoting hope” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is Shanika’s story in her own words…
“I’ve seen women providing healing and hope in my very own life over the course of the pandemic by just being there for me! They made sure I am on top of everything such as food, household, and completing my goals with my coach. My family and friends who are women made sure that they kept reminding me who I was. I before the pandemic and helped me financially.”
For Black History Month (February 2022), Tracy was asked to tell us about a milestone she was proud of accomplishing. Tracy is a recent graduate of our Job Training program and accepted a position at New Moms as a temporary outreach specialist. In her role, she helps recruit and enroll other young moms to our supportive programs. Below is her answer, written in her own words.
“A milestone I accomplished that I’m proud of is starting school and a new, better-paying job that I actually enjoy at the same time. [Plus] being able to manage both while being a mom of two. [I am proud of] putting myself in a program that helped me focus on what’s important and giving me more structure in my days by day life and possibly future. [I’m] gaining more responsibility and learning how to balance them. What really made me proud is the transitioning how it only took a couple of months to fall into place. It was always something I wanted, and to see how it took off fast made me feel very capable of doing anything.”
Ximena was pregnant when she heard about New Moms from her counselor at Morton East High School. She joined our parent support group for pregnant and parenting Morton East students in May of 2021 because the other moms were just like her.
“They’re all teen moms – first time having a baby,” Ximena said. “We all have a connection because of our babies and how our bodies change.”
In July, Ximena was connected with one of New Moms’ doulas (also known as a birth coach) in preparation for the birth of her son. Ximena said she really liked her doula, Mary, because she worked with Ximena’s entire family. Mary even taught Ximena’s boyfriend breathing techniques so he could help support Ximena during labor.
Unexpectedly in August, Ximena had an emergency C-section and, after 17 hours of labor, gave birth to her son Mateo. She said she was in so much pain that they had to put her to sleep after the birth which meant she had to wait to hold her new baby. She was very happy to have the support of her boyfriend and his mother while in the hospital.
Ximena said her first days home were stressful because Mateo kept crying. But with the guidance of her New Moms support team, both she and Mateo have settled into their life together. Her doula helped Ximena understand the changes to her body and mood from giving birth.
“It’s a really nice experience to have someone to help when you have questions and ask how you’re feeling,” Ximena said.
With the support of her older sister and parents, Ximena started going back to class and graduated with her high school diploma in June 2022! She got to share the moment with Mateo, who is now 9 months old. Her goal is to start college and she’s figuring out what she wants to study.
To other young moms Ximena says, “It’s hard to have a baby but when you see your baby, you’ll know it’s all worth it. Live your life for your baby. Not every mom can have a baby and God gave us a baby for a reason.”
Brooke came to New Moms when she was pregnant with her daughter, Cataleya. She had lost two previous pregnancies to miscarriages and was looking for comprehensive support during her current pregnancy. A friend referred her to New Moms because Brooke’s doctor dismissed her concerns – insisting she was not even pregnant at the time. Brooke said, this was not the first time she had experienced discrimination from the healthcare system.
“It’s hard being a black woman and giving birth because of medical racism and all that. So, I was just extremely nervous about everything,” said Brooke, who is now 24 years old.
At New Moms, Brooke found a team of dedicated women to support her including a Family Support coach, a counselor, and a doula – a specialized pregnancy and birth coach. She said she trusted each member of her team to give her helpful, well-informed advice about her motherhood journey.
“That’s the thing I love most about the program, they helped me every step of the way,” Brooke said.
Brooke and her husband, Ben, are now the proud parents of Cataleya, their daughter that they named after the strong and durable Cattleya orchid. She said she and her husband work hard to be a parenting team and that her New Moms coach helps design parent-child activities that both she and Ben can participate in.
“He’s been really working on that, making sure that it’s not just me making all the decisions,” Brooke said. “We’re still both her parents, so we both still have to have discussions and make decisions of what is best for her. We might not always see eye-to-eye but we can at least compromise and set a good example.”
Brooke is looking ahead to the day when the COVID-19 pandemic is over and she can take her daughter out to explore the world.
“I’m very pro independent learning when it comes to Cataleya,” said Brooke, whose daughter is now a toddler. “I might not be here forever and I can’t hold her hand forever, so I’m going to let her use her skills of figuring stuff out. She’s naturally curious. I’m really looking forward to watching her grow.”
Brooke encourages other moms to reach out to New Moms and to not feel bad about seeking help because “we all need help.”
“That’s the best decision that she could possibly make for her and her child,” said Brooke, who has been partnered with New Moms for 2 years now. “The fact that she sought out help and support, and she can receive from New Moms, is one of the best things that could possibly happen to her.”
“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.”
Jessica and her kids were one of the first families to move into Clare Place, New Moms’ permanent supportive housing in Oak Park. Before New Moms, Jessica had been bouncing around from place to place with her children after being kicked out of her mother-in-law’s house.
“Right before Clare Place, I was living in a one-bedroom basement,” said Jessica, who is 25 years old. “There was no windows. I didn’t have my own kitchen or bathroom, so it was really hard. Definitively really hard.”
The best part about Clare Place, Jessica said, is that her kids – Alexander and Madelyn – get to have their own room.
“Having a place for my children and myself to be able to come home to and call somewhere home is more than I could have asked for,” Jessica said. “For them to have their own room, to have their own space, I’m so grateful to be able to give that to them.”
As part of living at Clare Place, Jessica’s family partners with a New Moms’ coach who is there to help them set and pursue their goals for the future. Jessica said her coach, Paula, is “amazing” and is a good listener.
“New Moms has helped me in a lot of different ways—especially Paula,” Jessica said. “She’s been such a good help. She has helped me a lot with my mental health challenges and all of the things I’ve dealt with to get to where I am now.”
Recently, Jessica and her son helped Paula create an inspirational flyer to hang up in Clare Place. Paula makes monthly flyers celebrating an inspirational person of color, and Jessica and Alexander helped Paula create one honoring Frida Kahlo. Jessica said this was a great way for her to teach her son about his Mexican heritage.
“I want to make sure my son is proud of who he is and where he comes from and that’s how we talked about the flyer,” Jessica said. “Paula asked if I knew anyone that was Hispanic who inspired me. I told her about Frida Kahlo and why myself and Alexander thought she would be a perfect person to put on the flyer.”
Jessica’s plans for the future include finding another job in health care. She was laid off because of the pandemic but wants to get back into the field. She said she’s been talking with Paula about pursuing her Registered Nurse (RN) degree and becoming a pediatric nurse.
“Paula encourages me, even with all the other stuff going on like my son having to do eLearning, she keeps inspiring me and keeps me going making sure that I follow my dreams no matter how old I get or how many months pass,” Jessica said.
To other young moms, Jessica says it’s worth it to work with New Moms.
“I would tell them take the opportunity that is given to them,” Jessica said. “It’s definitely worth a try and it can help them so much in ways they might not see right away but do matter. You guys have helped a lot!”
Jylisa was experiencing homelessness when she found out she was pregnant. For the last 10 years, she had basically been raising herself – her mother coming sporadically in and out of her life because of her struggles with substance abuse. Jylisa was living in a shelter for pregnant and parenting young mothers – the RAPPP program through the Night Ministry – at the beginning of her pregnancy before being referred to New Moms when she turned 18.
When she moved into New Moms’ Transformation Center, she was immediately paired with a coach. Jylisa said everyone was very welcoming, but she wasn’t used to living with some many women and children, so it was a lot to get used to.
In January 2021, she gave birth to her daughter Ja’nylahh after an emergency C-section. She was in labor at the hospital for three days and almost suffered a stroke before getting to hold her baby in her arms. She was alone during the entire labor she said.
“I went through my whole labor by myself. I don’t have no body to say ‘it’s okay.’ I didn’t have none of that. I was by myself.” Jylisa said. “Then I saw her, and I held her and the pain and suffering – the whole experience – it was worth it. Just seeing her, it was worth it.”
After recovering for six weeks, Jylisa’s coach, Teneca, referred her to New Moms’ Job Training program and she began working at New Moms’ social enterprise candle company, Bright Endeavors, in March 2021. She was eventually promoted to team lead because of her task initiation and leadership skills.
“She’s on it! Nothing stopping her,” said Erin Vaughn, a New Moms’ Training and Coaching Specialist in the Job Training program. “If it comes out of her mouth, she’s going to do it.”
Jylisa said she came to realize that working at Bright Endeavors is more than just a job.
“Bright Endeavors gave me a boost of confidence.” Jylisa said. “It’s like you’re working for them but they’re also working for you. They value your opinion. They make sure you’re okay, physically and mentally.”
Jylisa also graduated from high school during her time at New Moms. She is most proud of herself for graduating on time while balancing her pregnancy and unstable homelife. She has enrolled at Malcom X College in Chicago to pursue nursing and will begin classes in the fall. In addition to earning her college degree, Jylisa’s future goals include finding permanent housing and spending as much time with her daughter as possible.
To other young moms thinking about joining a New Moms’ program, Jylisa says that if she can do it so can they.
“At this point, you’re not doing it for you. You’re not thinking for yourself no more,” Jylisa said. “You have a kid and you’ve got to start making the right decisions for your child. Whether it’s a girl or a boy, they’re looking at you as their role model, their person, their advocate, so you have to be there.”
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.
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.”
“The universe heard my cries…”
Before finding New Moms, Taeya was living with her in-laws and pregnant with her second child. She was nineteen at the time and had just graduated high school.
“My in laws they were looking at me crazy,” Taeya said. “They were looking at me like I didn’t want to work. But I did, I just didn’t know how to [find jobs] by myself.”
Taeya said the universe must have been listening to her struggles because eventually a friend shared a Facebook post from a New Moms’ alumni that talked about her positive experience and encouraged others to contact New Moms if they needed support. Taeya’s friend encouraged her to call.
At first, Taeya was too nervous. It got so bad she was crying in her bed from worry. Wondering how she was going to take care of her new baby and questioning what she was doing with her life.
“I just didn’t know what to do and that’s when I called,” Taeya said. “Charlie, the father of my kids, he was encouraging me to call too.”
Taeya was connected with a New Moms’ doula to support her through the remainder of her pregnancy. And after the birth of her second son, Omar, she also enrolled in New Moms’ Job Training program. She said she is grateful for her time in the program because the things she learned continue to help her in her current job as a day care Health Monitor. She is better aware of what she wants and where she wants to be.
Looking into the future, Taeya wants to focus more time on her passion for art. She recently finished a painting called Golden Middle (check out her son posing next to the painting) which was inspired by the divine feminine and explores motifs of nature like the heavens and stars as well as neuro pathways in the brain. As a mom of two boys – the oldest five and the youngest two – she said it is hard to find alone time but that it’s an important part of her selfcare.
Taeya encourages other young moms to give New Moms a chance. She said the best part the programs are that help you build connections and find friends who understand what you are going through as a new parent.
“It’s important to have friends,” reminds Taeya. “Everybody needs somebody to lean on.”
Yanin joined New Moms’ family support program when her son, Mateo, was four months old. She was referred to by her Doula at Advocate Health Care and was paired up with Family Support Specialist Ayeshah.
She said she loves her weekly home visits because Ayeshah has taken the time to get to know her and Mateo – even remembering that Mateo has acid reflux and tailoring parent-child activities specifically for him. Yanin said the best part about the Family Support program is that it has helped her bond with her son.
“The program helps me get closer to him,” said Yanin, who is 21 years old. “Because some days being so busy with school and coming home to take care of him, sometimes it makes me feel a little distant not only from him but just everyone. And I feel like New Moms just helps me get out of that and be there for my son more.”
Recently, Yanin and Ayeshah have been working on how to introduce race to Mateo and reflecting on Yanin’s own feelings about race and racial injustice.
“Mateo is African American and Puerto Rican so that’s why it’s so important to have those conversations,” Yanin said.
Through her time with New Moms, Yanin has realized not to be so hard on herself when it comes to her role as a mother.
“I learned that I’m a good mom,” Yanin said. “Because you feel like you have to do everything perfect, but you know sometimes you are going to have bad days with the baby. Sometimes you are going to get frustrated and that’s okay.”
She said Ayeshah has shown her how to calm herself in those moments and helped her find ways to calm Mateo down when he’s throwing one of his tantrums.
Right now, Yanin is finishing courses at an esthetician school and said she enjoys what she’s learning because every day brings something new like full facials, laser treatments, or waxing. Once she finishes school, her goal is to start her own business.
To other moms thinking about joining a New Moms program, Yanin said would “absolutely” recommend it.
“It’s such a fun program! But you’re not only doing this for fun you’re getting rewarded at the same time – through the diaper program and the support packages they give every month. Yeah, it’s just amazing. It helps you bond with your baby especially as a young mother. Because life is different when you’re very young and you don’t have a lot of responsibilities. It teaches you to be responsible for you and your baby. I like it a lot. I didn’t even know they had programs like this.”
The night before her high school graduation, Yesenia (who goes by Yesi) stayed up making graduation caps for herself and her son, Xadrian. Her pink cap was decorated with two baby photos of Xadrian and said, “Mommy did it!” while Xadrian’s smaller blue cap said, “Mami did it for me!”
At the graduation ceremony, Yesi and Xadrian wore their matching cap and gowns to celebrate. Yesi said her son is the biggest reason she graduated from high school. She said he motivated her “to do better.”
“I was going through a hard time for a while and I kind of gave up on school but then I was like, ‘you know what, I got to go to school. I have to go somewhere after graduation,’” said Yesi, who is 18 years old. “I just had to put my mindset on school and finish it for my baby.”
Yesi found out she was pregnant because she started feeling sick. At first, she was worried she had COVID-19 and went to the emergency room. However, when she was sent home, she took a pregnancy test which came back positive. She told her mom who then took her to the doctor for her first check-up.
She was referred to New Moms by her doctor and was paired with one of our Doulas, also known as birth coaches, during her pregnancy. After the birth of her son, Yesi started working with Precious, a New Moms Family Support Specialist (FSS). Yesi said Precious also helped motivate her to focus on school, sending her inspirational quotes and encouraging her to do her homework.
Yesi said she has learned a lot from New Moms especially about childhood development. She now knows what milestones Xadrian should reach as he grows which is really helpful. She enjoys sharing this knowledge with other moms and has even referred a friend to New Moms!
Throughout her pregnancy and parenthood journey, Yesi has had the support of her coaches, family, and partner. She wants other young moms to feel that same love that she’s felt.
“Know that you’re worth it,” Yesi said. “Even if you have a child, it doesn’t mean that you’ve ruined your life. You’re good.”
Now that she has graduated, Yesi is looking towards the future. She wants to become a real estate agent and eventually own her own home. She recently started a handmade jewelry business and is using her artistic abilities to make money and save for real estate license classes.
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.”
What would your child say about you in twenty years?
For Mother’s Day, we asked moms who attend our Pizza & God group to reflect on their lives with their children. As part of a writing activity, they each looked forward to imagine their future relationship with their child. Below is Sabrina’s response in her own words.
In 20 years, Zyaire will be 22 years old and I hope this is what he will say about me:
My mom Sabrina is the best mother in the world. She always strives and works hard to make sure my every need and want is taken care of. My mom is first my mother and forever my friend. My mom loves me unconditionally and I’m forever grateful and honored to have her as my mom. My mom is strong, fierce, and fearless. She always knows what to do and say at the right times. There’s no limit to the things my mom would do for me. She has my back and I got her front.
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.
Shutia is a 23-year-old mother of three boys all of whom are under the age of seven. Some might say that’s a handful, but Shutia joyfully says her sons are well-behaved and fun.
She said her boys are also what keeps her motivated because she knows they’re depending on her. As a single mom, she feels double the pressure to provide for her children which is why losing her job at Marshalls during the pandemic was so hard. She said she could only buy the essentials and had to keep to a strict budget.
“Getting laid off was hard. I didn’t have as much money so I couldn’t take care of my boys like I wanted. If I didn’t need it, I didn’t buy it.”
Since many businesses were closed due to the pandemic, Shutia realized she was unlikely to find a new customer service job. After seeing a message about New Moms’ Job Training program in a Facebook group, she decided to enroll.
Shutia said she’s enjoyed her time as a production assistant at New Moms’ social enterprise, Bright Endeavors. She likes working with the other moms in the program and says the coaches set a good example of how to be professional.
“I’m gaining all the tools I need to be successful. They teach us things we can take with us through life.”
Shutia was recently promoted to team lead at Bright Endeavors, so now she trains the moms just starting the program. She said she was especially proud of this achievement because the promotion came out of nowhere.
“The coaches said that even though I was quiet, they knew I was always present on the job and willing to help others.”
Shutia’s future goals include saving $1,000 by the end of her 12 weeks in the program, so she can move into her own apartment. She said she’s “excited and nervous” to move into her own place for the first time.
As part of her savings goal, Shutia opened her first ever savings account with the help of New Moms staff. All New Moms participants are eligible for a free, FDIC-insured bank account through US Bank which is one tool we use to promote financial justice in the face of generations of injustice against communities of color. Shutia said having a bank account makes her feel stable and she’s excited by the possibilities it provides.
Eventually, Shutia wants to re-enroll in classes at Daley College. She’s interested in social work and child counseling because she firmly believes every child needs someone to talk to and to reach out to when life is hard.
To other young moms, Shutia encourages them to join the New Moms’ Job Training program for the paid professional development and the additional benefits.
“It’s hard but do it anyway.”
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.”
Meet Tabitha! Tabitha is a former New Moms resident and Job Training alumnus who is now working at Northwestern Hospital and finishing her Bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Tabitha’s story is an exciting example of how supporting young moms helps to build strong families. And that is why New Moms exists — to shine a light on a path forward for young moms and help them find stability, gain a community, and grow in confidence as they lead their families.
After losing her job at a local restaurant, Tabitha found out she was pregnant and soon became homeless. For a few months, Tabitha was staying with friends but felt like she needed more help during her pregnancy.
She was eventually connected with New Moms during her stay at the La Casa Norte shelter. Through New Moms’ housing program, Tabitha gained a safe home to raise her newborn daughter and focus on her next steps.
“New Moms gave me a stable place where I didn’t have to worry about safety, will I have heat, or all that other stuff,” said Tabitha, who was 23 when she was referred to New Moms. “I had stability in my life while I was able to change my own life.”
During her time in our two-year transitional housing, Tabitha also enrolled in New Moms’ Job Training program. Through her work experience at our social enterprise, Bright Endeavors, Tabitha learned how to communicate and receive feedback in a professional workplace.
“It challenged me to learn how to address the situation more professionally — not just screaming, yelling “Raw, raw!” Tabitha laughed. “I had to learn how to say how I felt about the situation and how I wanted to resolve it. But it also gave me confidence in myself.”
At the end of her time at Bright Endeavors, New Moms staff member Ashlee Krawczyk helped Tabitha apply to a career development program called YearUp. The program provided Tabitha with skill training and a pathway to corporate internships with potential for placement. Tabitha was then placed at Northwestern Hospital as a Research Administrator intern.
Tabitha embraced the challenging experience as a critical stepping stone to a long-term career path. She said while the program and her internship at Northwestern Hospital were difficult, she felt supported and encouraged to see it through.
“When it came to YearUp, I saw a lot of people who want to change or want to get out of the situation they’re in,” Tabitha said. “Everybody there has something they want to do, and I did too. When classes got hard, we all studied and shared notes. When somebody was ready to quit, we all gave encouraging words.”
After her YearUp internship, Tabitha was offered a full-time position at Northwestern in Research and Administration as an Account Specialist. She said she knew Northwestern was a good fit for her because she was allowed to be herself in the office. She doesn’t feel like she has to look a certain way or speak in a certain way to be accepted.
“I’m a little loud, I’m a little bubbly, I wear bright colors,” Tabitha said. “I don’t have to put on a fake voice or talk a certain way to [work at Northwestern]. I can just be myself.”
After her two years with New Moms, Tabitha has a steady job and career path, she has found a safe and stable home, and continues to focus on being a great mom to her daughter.
“I want her to grow up and understand that she can do whatever she wants to do,” Tabitha said. “I want her to know that, “I’m going to support you in whatever you do. Even if you fail and hit the ground. I will be there to help you get back up. Just try for yourself.””
Tabitha said her next steps are to complete her Bachelor’s degree in business and pursue an MBA. However, Tabitha also has a passion for baking, and so her long-term goal is to expand her home bakery business and open her own walk-up bakery.
“At this point in life, my goal for myself is to finish school,” Tabitha said. “I would like to keep growing and eventually get to a point where I’m stable in my life and in my income where I can go back to my passion for culinary.”
Tabitha said she’s learned a lot about herself during the last couple of years. She said reflecting back, she realized how much determination it took to get where she is today.
“My journey of losing my job, being homeless, being in the shelter, it all started back November 17, 2016 when I lost my job,” Tabitha said. “I didn’t feel done with my struggle until [this] December when I got my job. Nothing is going to happen overnight. Nothing worth having is easy. So, it was going to be a process – what I did.”
Not only does Tabitha look to her own accomplishments for inspiration, she also looks to them for reassurance when she experiences struggle. Tabitha said she tries not to worry about what the future might hold because she’s confident her drive will help her find resources and overcome potential challenges — like what she found at New Moms
“I feel like if I fall down again or something happens in my life where I’m at square one again, I know I’m strong enough to get back,” Tabitha said. “I know I’ll do whatever it takes. No matter what it is.”
Tajuor said her life completely changed when she saw the New Moms flyer at her local aid office.
At the time, Tajuor was 7 months pregnant with twins and was feeling overwhelmed by the changes in her life.
“When I got pregnant, I felt like life just stopped,” she said.
She brought the flyer to the attention of her case manager who help connect her with New Moms’ Family Support program. Tajuor has now been partnered with New Moms for over two years.
“New Moms helped a lot and came into my life at the right time,” said Tajuor, who is 24 years old. “New Moms was more than just helpful. I was pregnant and New Moms provided the extra shoulder I needed to lean on.”
Tajuor said she especially loved her doula who helped her successfully deliver her sons who are now almost two years old. Doulas at New Moms are coaches who specifically work with women through pregnancy, birth, and the post-partum period.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tajuor was still able to finish school and earn her Certified Medical Assistance (CMA) license. She said the switch to virtual learning was challenging, especially because her toddlers were also at home, but she was still able to complete her classes.
After graduating, Tajuor enrolled in our Job Training program. She said she’d wanted to join the program for a long time but now was finally the time that “everything lined up.”
She said she really enjoys working as a Production Assistant at our social enterprise, Bright Endeavors. Even working during a pandemic, Tajuor said she finds pouring wax, labeling, and organizing candles for shipping relaxing. She said she’s also learned a lot about herself during the program working.
“I’m strong,” Tajuor said. “I didn’t know I had so much determination and fight in myself as I do.”
Tajuor said her future plans include becoming a homeowner by the time she’s 27 and returning to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). She said she’s interested in healthcare because it’s a way to make a difference in someone else’s life.
After finishing the Job Training program, Tajuor plans to work with our Employment Specialists to find a job. She said she wants to start saving up for a new car and setting money aside for her twins.
When reflecting on her time with New Moms, Tajuor said, “I’ve had a great experience. I didn’t know I would gain so much from this program as I have. I’m just happy I went on that bulletin board and gave you all a call. The people I met have impacted my life.”
In fact, whenever she sees a pregnant woman, Tajuor said she tells them to call New Moms. She even referred her best friend to our programs.
“New Moms is more than just an organization,” she said. “It’s a support system, helping hand, and motivator.”
Tajuor said she has transformed into a “totally different person” than she was two years ago before partnering with New Moms.
“I guess that’s what happens when you become a mom,” she said. “Your eyes open up. Open up to life itself. I wanted something better because my sons deserve it and so do I.”
What would your child say about you in twenty years? For Mother’s Day, we asked moms in our Pizza & God group to reflect on their lives with their children. As part of a writing activity, they each looked forward to imagine their future relationship with their child. Below is Tamyra’s response in her own words.
In 20 years, Ja’Maya will be 22 years old and I hope this is what she will say about me:
My mom Tamyra is the best mom ever. Me and my mom have a great friendship and I can talk to her about anything. Although she is a mom before a friend, she listens to me and hears me out always. She is so supportive in everything I do, whether I’m right or wrong. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for my mother. Me and my mother may bump heads like every teenage girl and her mother, nothing is perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My mom is like my best friend and I am so very thankful for her. She tried the very best that she could and that is more than enough for me.
What would your child say about you in twenty years? For Mother’s Day, we asked moms in our Pizza & God group to reflect on their lives with their children. As part of a writing activity, they each looked forward to imagine their future relationship with their child. Below is Yashica’s response in her own words.
In 20 years, Amorion will be 21 years old and I hope this is what he will say about me:
My mom Yashica is a strong woman that I watched grow and become everything she said she would. I’ve watched her cry, laugh, smile, and struggle, but she still held her head high. She has always been there for me through good and bad. I love talking to my mother because she gives me sight of things I never knew about and always says the pros and cons of things. And when everyone is against her, she knows I’m always here and always will have her back. My mother is a warrior woman and someday, I will be able to make her proud of the man she raised. I love you mother.
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.
Angelique is 3 years old. While her mother attends New Moms’ programming, Angelique attends New Kids programming. When she first began, she was very shy, and didn’t want to leave her mother’s side. Because she had grown up in chaos and homelessness, Angelique was hyper-vigilant, unable to relax. She had never spent time with other children her age. She couldn’t trust the New Kids staff, or anyone but herself. She was defiant when asked to participate in group activities.
Within her first few weeks, the New Kids staff recognized Angelique’s needs, and tried to make her feel safe, slowly integrating her into social settings with other children her age.
“We often see it in participants’ children,” explained a New Moms aide. “They haven’t been around other kid their age, and they have very poor social skills. A lot of them seem constantly on-edge, because they come from abusive or dangerous backgrounds. They don’t want mom to leave, in case she doesn’t come back. We have to show them that they are safe, then teach them how to interact appropriately with other kids.”
In the past few months, Angelique has shown great improvement. With encouragement from New Kids staff members, Angelique now talks and plays with other children. She is much more social, and loves attending New Kids, where she plays with her new friends. She is also communicating with New Kids staff members and her mother, letting her know when she is hungry, sleepy, or needing to use the restroom. Best of all, because of New Kids Parent-Child Interaction Times, delivered at the end of each session, Angelique knows she can count on her mother to return.
New Kids’ stimulating, age-appropriate programming has done wonders for Angelique. She is blossoming into a happy, emotionally healthy little girl.
“Despite having good standing with previous employers, I came to Bright Endeavors to use it as a stepping stone to my dreams of going into the medical field. I am also a part of other programs offered by New Moms, the parent nonprofit of Bright Endeavors. When I heard about the job training program, I couldn’t resist!
I have learned so many things through the program such as strengthening my math skills, accountability in the work place, and being a leader!
Other than building my network through making professional connections, my goals are to work towards a career I love and gain confidence in professional situations like interviews. I hope to also go back to school to help with my goal of being in the medical field.
I am growing as a mother by growing mentally and emotionally. Being that motherhood has so many ups and downs, every day can be challenging. This program has reassured me that I have the skills I need to raise a child and to know I’m financially stable is a big plus.”
Betsy came to New Mom’s Oak Park location (formerly known as Parenthesis) after feeling isolated and needing support as she raised three children on her own. Her background of abuse left her feeling unsure how to raise her boys as a single mother.
“I still remember the desperation I felt as I visited the grocery store a mere 4 days after giving birth, with my three children in the shopping cart, feeling outnumbered and alone, trying to accept my new role as a single mom, while facing the legal, financial and emotional hurdles of divorce. As a child, I was raised in a physically, emotionally, verbally and even sexually abusive home. If there is anything I knew since I was a teenager, was that I planned on breaking the cycle! And that I did, thanks to God. As a new parent though, I knew what NOT to do, but I didn’t always know what TO do. I found myself struggling with finding the balance of setting boundaries and consequences, without being neither abusive nor lenient.”
Betsy joined the single moms group in Oak Park and received twice monthly home visits and attended a weekly support group which included dinner and child care. She was able to learn what TO do as a parent to promote positive behavior in her boys.
“New Moms/Parenthesis equipped me with so many tools for the many stages of development. Simple strategies, like distraction, speaking at eye level, consistency, validating emotions, were foreign to me. Having a social worker visit my home and support my children’s development and support my parenting as well as my emotional well-being, was in fact a LIFE SAVER!”
Besty’s life has transformed.
“Five years have passed and thanks to God’s grace, strength and provision my story reads VERY different today. My boys are now 5, 6 and 11. I was able to take necessary boundaries in the abusive relationship I had. I am completing my Masters in Education as I transition to teach. After five years of no dating, I am in healthy, mature relationship with a godly man who has also become my best friend. Through this program of coming into my living room twice a month to impact not just my life and the life of my children, abusive cycles have been broken and this support impacted my future generations.”
Debrea, 23, came to New Moms as a mother of 2 young children. She was out of formula and learned about New Moms could help. She shares, “I went to New Moms to pick up the milk and they were like, ‘hey! Do you want some pampers?’ – they gave me pampers. And then they were like, ‘We have a job training program that we’re starting a new cohort for next month and if you’re interested we could sign you up.”
Debrea joined our Job Training program and fully engaged. She developed stronger interview skills, created a resume, worked at Bright Endeavors (our social enterprise candle company) and utilized our Supportive Employment Specialist to find job openings that could offer her opportunities to work towards her goals and build a strong future for her family.
Half way through the Job Training program, Debrea found a temporary job with USPS and proved herself to be a great employee. She came back to Bright Endeavors to complete the program and graduate. But she never attended her graduation celebration – instead she started a full time position at USPS! Congratulations Debrea! We are so proud of you! Keep transforming your future, one determined step at a time!
“I came to the Job Training program of New Moms, at Bright Endeavors because I had heard through social media how positive the program was and a family member referred me in the past. But after being displaced from my home and job, I finally looked into it.
At Bright Endeavors, I am learning to maintain a professional demeanor at work and response inhibition. The goals I have are to find a career that I am proud of and excited to go to back to, and owning my own home. I am working towards these goals by dedicating my free time to researching jobs, applications, and budgeting and saving my money.
I hope to return to school in the upcoming spring, because by then I should have a stable job and adequate childcare for my son.
I am growing as a mother by praying every day for patience because my baby is still growing and learning and some things take time. And in this fast paced world I want to take time to appreciate him and his growing process.”
Kellee was living with family until a dispute caused her and her children, now aged four and five, to move into the Night Ministry, where she stayed before coming to New Moms. At first she was skeptical about moving into New Moms, especially because it meant she would no longer be able to do hair out of her own apartment. But she realized the great opportunity that this would be for herself and her children, grew excited about the program, and decided to move in. She didn’t give up on her dream of doing hair though, keeping her studio chair set up in the corner of her apartment to inspire her to work towards her goals.
While at New Moms, Kellee graduated from Truman College with a culinary certificate and is hoping to eventually go back to school to earn her cosmetology license. She found a job at the airport and began to earn enough to support her family.
Kellee recognizes there were lots of ups and downs during her time at New Moms. She struggled to find reliable childcare as her work schedule shifted around. Her struggles with mental health were a challenge, but through a positive coaching relationship with her Family Support Specialist Teneca, she was able to resume taking her medication and began to feel better. While she used to speak at the floor, Kellee now walks around smiling vibrantly.
As soon as she moved in to New Moms, Kellee began working hard to find her family stable housing for when they would exit the program. She looked for housing nonstop for over a year, trying hard to find a 3-bedroom apartment so that there would be enough space for her children to play and for her to be able to do hair. After all of the hard work of applying to different affordable housing programs and scouring the private market, she was able to find a 3-bedroom apartment that she could afford and her family moved out of New Moms Transformation Center in the spring of 2019.
After intentionally seeking out coaching for guidance on how to save money and plan financially, Kellee has learned how to manage her money and recognizes the importance of being able to pay her bills on time, especially now that she’s moved out of New Moms. She plans to go back to school to receive her cosmetology license in about a year, after her family has had time to settle into the new apartment and she’s been able to grow her savings. Her ultimate goal is to receive a degree in business and open up her own hair studio.
Kellee’s grateful to New Moms for all of the growth she’s experienced, saying that “New Moms is a good place if you need a fresh start.”
We’re proud of Kellee and all the work she did to strengthen her family! We look forward to seeing her continue to achieve her goals and being able to support her however we can.
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.”
This is the transcript a speech given by 21-year-old Martina, a resident of New Moms’ Housing program in 2014.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Martina, and I would like to start off by saying what a pleasure it is to be with all of you today. Being given the opportunity to tell someone my story is a great honor, so I thank you for inviting me.
Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be a part of something big; whether it was hosting my own talk show, or being part of a movement promoting change in my community. New Moms has been that for me. Growing up in the inner city, and being part of the system, drug abuse, domestic violence, and economic challenges were part of everyday life. I’ve always felt that greatness was inside of me, wanting to be set free — but my surroundings showed no sign of allowing this to happen.
So what was a girl like me, from the inner city, destined to live an ordinary life, to do with these big hopes and dreams? For awhile, they were placed on a shelf too high to reach—that was, until a couple of months prior to having my baby boy, Mario. I decided I would climb until I reached that shelf, and take hold of my dreams. First, I need support, and had to get away from the people that were telling me to give up on my dreams. I had to replace them with positive people and positive energy. I needed an outlet, to jumpstart my new attitude towards life. New Moms has become that outlet for me.
Not only have they helped me to grow personally, but they’ve also helped me to grow professionally. In my first interview with New Moms, it was very clear to me that this wasn’t a place to hibernate for a few months. The staff aims to see a transition in the mothers that walk through their doors. They drive us to do better, and help us in all ways they possibly can. One of the greatest values that this program his instilled in me is to use my time wisely. Because of this, I get up early every day, with a plan to do something constructive and positive with my time, so my dream will become a reality.
I completed the New Moms Academy program (now know as Job Training), and got a paid transitional job. I hadn’t worked since my son was born, so this was an important opportunity for me.
Through a partner agency, I started working at a summer job for six weeks, with an organization called BEEP (Building Employment and Entrepreneurial Partnerships), as an Administrative Assistant. I began to build a great relationship with my co-workers, and made a good impression on my superiors. When it came down to the end of my time there, it was hard to say goodbye — I didn’t want to leave, and my boss didn’t want me to go. I stayed positive, and began searching for a permanent job.
Out of the blue, Ed, the chairperson of BEEP, called me with an idea: he asked if I would consider taking a part-time job with a contractor, who has a linkage with BEEP, which allows me to continue my schooling. I’m very grateful that this opportunity came to me.
So what does it mean for a mom who doesn’t get a break like I did? We’re all striving to become independent, but a lack of jobs available for young mothers, especially in my situation, means that we continue to hope for mediocre. We don’t dream big, and we just deal with the cards that are dealt to us.
For some parents, that’s okay. They’d rather avoid the assumed disappointment that’s crouching at their doors. I refuse to adopt that mentality. That doesn’t satisfy the dreams I have in life for my son and I. Unemployment rates are high for everyone — so how does a single mother like me keep hold of my big dream, or even just survive day-to-day? I don’t need to tell you how hard it is for a single mom to find a job, let alone keep one. Where would we be without programs like New Moms?
Now I’m not a lawmaker, alderman, or state representative, or anything like that, but I am a voice for those who are not standing here with me today, to tell you their story. More funding for jobs is needed. More funding for social services is needed. But more importantly, more hearts need to be open, to help those who have dreams on a shelf that seems too high to reach.”
Maxine is 24 years old and has a 7-year-old daughter. When she came to New Moms looking for assistance with job training, she had a very limited job history and no high school diploma. At the time, she and her daughter were living in the basement of a building. Maxine and her daughter were struggling and dependent on others for their basic survival.
After she completed our Academy of Professional Development (now known as our Job Training program), Maxine began a transitional job at our social enterprise, Bright Endeavors. There, she worked hard to learn new skills and began to set goals for herself. While on the production floor, Maxine showed initiative, making improvements to the production process. Noticing an imperfection in a candle surface, Maxine began experimenting with the candle wax. She discovered that the air conditioning in our production studio was affecting the quality of candles. After carefully documenting and sharing her experiments with the Bright Endeavors team, Maxine found ways to improve the product quality immensely.
She also opened checking and savings accounts so she could take advantage of direct deposit and track how she was spending her money. On her commute to and from work at Bright Endeavors, and during production breaks, Maxine studied for her GED exam. After a whole summer of studying, she took the exam — and passed! When she heard the news, she cried tears of joy. Obtaining a GED meant that Maxine would be eligible for jobs requiring a high school diploma — and more importantly, it meant that she was eligible to enroll in a nursing school program, where she could work toward her career goal.
Since completing her transitional job at Bright Endeavors, Maxine has completed training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, and obtained certifications in phlebotomy and EKG administration. She works as a Certified Nursing Assistant for Jackson Park Hospital. She has moved out of the basement she was living in, and now shares an apartment with her daughter. She is thrilled to be living in her own home. With her first year of savings, Maxine bought a car.
In addition to working and parenting her daughter, who is flourishing in the second grade, Maxine is attending a Chicago City College to obtain an Associate’s degree. We’re proud of Maxine and her success and the role model she has been for other participants on their journey to independent living.
This is the transcript of a speech given by 17-year-old Milena at a recent participant celebration. Less than a year after giving this speech, Milena obtained her GED certification, and passed her Certified Medical Assistant licensure exam!
“My name is Milena. I’m 17 years old, and a teen mom to a 1-year-old son. When I was pregnant, I heard about New Moms from a friend, and started coming with my sister. She is 19, and also has a 1-year-old son. We started with the New Moms Parent Support Groups, which really helped me a lot, emotionally and economically. Right after joining Parent Support Groups, I joined the Academy of Professional Development (now known as the Job Training program).
When I joined the Academy, my goals were to get a job, and to go back to school. My plan for myself was to grow as a mom, and to grow economically as well. I had wasted enough time, and I was ready to get back on track with my life. All the way through, the staff of the Academy, and my case manager, helped me to accomplish my goals.
I now go to school for my GED, and I am taking classes to become a Certified Medical Assistant. My long-term goal is to become a Neonatal Nurse, since love to help new moms with their babies.
After finishing the Academy, I have job experience, and I feel well-prepared to continue working toward my goals.
New Moms has impacted my life in many ways, and I am thankful that I came across these wonderful people.”
When Monet came to us with her three-year-old son, she was homeless and had not finished high school. She felt like everything in her life was negative, including her relationship with her son. Monet said she was angry at the world.
New Moms’ coaches approached interactions with Monet from a strengths-based perspective — encouraging Monet to utilize her existing knowledge and skills to overcome challenges. Within weeks, Monet was less confrontational, and we saw her self-confidence begin to build. Within a few months at New Moms, Monet has made extraordinary changes in her lifestyle and behavior. She began engaging in Parent Support Group, and received an award for perfect attendance. Her coach helped Monet to enroll in a GED program and our Job Training program, to help her work toward her goal of becoming a chef. She looks forward to enrolling in a culinary arts training program through Inspiration Kitchens, once she has completed her GED.
Monet has become an attentive, engaged mother. She interacts positively with her son, who delights in playing with other children. It is a true joy to see her playing and laughing with her son. Monet even wrote thank-you notes to coaches and other moms who had helped her along the way.
We see young women like Monet every day at New Moms. They have been abused and ignored by their communities, and although they come to us for help, they live in fear that we will turn them away. Instead, we approach every participant from a strengths-based perspective — acknowledging her strengths, and helping her to build on her assets. As we encourage Monet to make positive changes in her life, she feels empowered to work toward her goals, and build a stronger relationship with her son!
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.”
By the time Natasha came to New Moms with her newborn, Samiya, she had moved five times while pregnant, ultimately giving birth as a 19-year-old while living at The Night Ministry’s emergency shelter. Experiencing depression, Natasha knew she needed help, saying, “I knew I wasn’t ready for a baby. I didn’t have finances, I didn’t have my own place. It was kind of scary.”
While at The Night Ministry, Natasha learned about New Moms’ job training program, which blends classroom and on-the-job training in a comprehensive 16-week program specifically designed for young moms. The program appealed to Natasha because of the opportunity to work at Bright Endeavors, New Moms’ social enterprise candle company.
However, like many of the young mothers served by New Moms, the most important first step toward a better future was finding a safe, stable home. Knowing this, Natasha applied to New Moms’ transitional housing program and, in June 2017, moved into an apartment in our Transformation Center. In addition to providing a safe environment for Samiya, the apartment gave Natasha a sense of security and confidence that she had never experienced before. On her first impression of her new home, Natasha remarked, “When I saw the apartment, my heart dropped. This was my own place. I’d been waiting for this moment for so long. It felt like everything was clicking together for me.”
Confident in the fact that she would no longer have to worry about where she and her daughter would sleep each night, or how she would provide Samiya with basic necessities like diapers and formula, Natasha quickly began laying the groundwork for a new life. With guidance and support from New Moms’ staff, Natasha picked a daycare provider for Samiya, allowing her to devote her full attention each day to becoming the best mother she could be.
Enrolling in several support groups offered by New Moms, Natasha began gaining foundational parenting skills and took advantage of a peer network to help her deal with the unique challenges our participants face every day. She also entered the paid job training program that initially drew her to New Moms, learning professional skills like resume preparation and interview techniques, while also gaining practical skills while working as a production assistant at the Bright Endeavors factory.
Successfully completing the job training program in November 2017, Natasha’s hard work quickly paid off. Within a month of graduation from the program, she was hired by Helping Hand Partners, a nonprofit organization that sources and distributes socially responsible products. Still living at the Transformation Center, Natasha is now focused on saving money and continuing to utilize the family support programs offered by New Moms so that she can provide Samiya with the stability she needs to thrive. “My vision for myself is to provide for my child and raise her up the right way,” says Natasha. “And as a woman, to continue to go to work, take care of home, take care of bills, save money and be humble.”
Through New Moms, Natasha is shaping the story of what her family can look like one day at a time, and serving as an example of what is possible when hard work and determination meet opportunity. We are extraordinarily proud of Natasha, and excited for the future she is building for herself and her daughter.
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.
Priscilla is 20 years old. She and her 15-month-old daughter came to New Moms when her daughter was just an infant, after her family kicked her out of their home. Priscilla enrolled immediately into the Housing program, and the Academy of Professional Development (now known as the Job Training program). From the start, Priscilla wanted to take advantage of every service New Moms had to offer — and with a career goal of becoming a social worker to help other young mothers like herself, Priscilla excelled at Bright Endeavors. During her transitional job, she mentored other participants, developing her leadership skills.
While at Bright Endeavors, Priscilla was accepted into the Chicago Housing Authority program. She moved from New Moms’ Transitional Housing into her own apartment, where she has been stably housed for six months.
During her transitional job at Bright Endeavors, Priscilla began searching for permanent employment. She was invited to interview with several companies, without being offered a job. When a new 6-month Team Leader position opened up at Bright Endeavors, Priscilla applied, and was offered the position. Since her start, she has trained more than 40 participants in candle making, inventory, customer service, shipping, and bookkeeping.
Over time, Priscilla has become a confident, professional leader. She is kindhearted and thoughtful, patient but persistent with the teams she manages. She has developed strong conflict resolution skills, and has become an excellent communicator.
In addition, during her transitional job, Priscilla fueled a conversation about famine in Somalia, which prompted participants to come together and form a new product — allowing Bright Endeavors to raise several hundred dollars for famine relief, which was donated to WorldVision.
After her 6-month Team Leadership position ended, Priscilla gained full-time employment at AirServ, assisting disabled travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport — something she believes will give her great experience, as she continues to work toward her career goal.
This fall, Priscilla enrolled in college courses, to obtain her Associate’s degree, before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
Symone is the Engagement Coordinator at Share our Spare, as well as a 2019 graduate of New Moms. Symone coordinates volunteers and donations, and she’s also a one-woman administrative support and social media team. She was leading a cohort of participants from New Moms Job Training program who were out on a field visit to sort clothes when we caught up with her.
Coordinating volunteers is something that she does regularly, and she loves being able to help others serve the community of young families in Chicago. Symone is focused on her job and enjoys how it allows her to help families like her own each day.
Because her story has been shaped by mentors she met at New Moms, she was eager to offer advice to the current participants who would someday secure jobs like she had. It was meaningful for the participants to learn about Symone’s story and serve alongside her in her current workplace where she is touching the lives of individuals with similar stories. Because of Symone’s history as a participant, the cohort was able to connect with her and see her professional success as something that was attainable in their own lives.
She is grateful to her family support specialist, Ashlee, as well as everyone else at New Moms who helped her to get to where she is today.
“I got help and that’s not a bad thing; You don’t need to do it by yourself.”
She likes to work with people who shop at Share Our Spare because she once found herself in their position of having the responsibilities of caring for a newborn but lacking adequate resources. As a graduate of New Moms, she wants people to know that receiving help is not a bad thing, and encourages others that they don’t need to do it by themselves.
Share our Spare is happy to help families or social service agencies in need of resources. You can find more information about their services and how to get them on their website.
At Share Our Spare, Symone has helped the organization expand its reach on social media and train her colleagues on savvy social media usage, despite not having a communications degree. She wants to go back to school because she has discovered a hidden talent in communications and pursue opportunities that a college degree will give her.
Her former family support specialist was proud that she was putting herself out there, given that she used to be more hesitant in putting herself out there for other opportunities in the past.
Symone is considering going to college in hopes of getting a degree in communications or business. For now, she is taking care of her son and taking classes at community college.
The mission of Share Our Spare is something that inspires Symone to keep serving in the community. Share Our Spare is a nonprofit organization in Chicago focused on collecting and distributing baby and kids’ items to families and organizations in need. It was started in 2011 by two moms with a lot of leftover stuff after their kids grew up. They wanted to create their own organization that catered specifically to families with new babies and young kids because of the huge need for an organization like Share Our Spare in the community.
Social service agencies as well as individuals in need can come and shop and fill a bag with clothes and resources that their kids will need for free. One of Symone’s favorite parts about Share our Spare is that each bag of clothes comes with a handwritten note card of encouragement.
New Moms participants wrote note cards with quotes that have been personally significant to them, such as “It always seems impossible until it’s done!” borrowed from Nelson Mandela.
Symone continues to help the community turn the extra into the extraordinary at Share our Spare and is grateful for the ways that New Moms has helped her get to where she is today.
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.
‘I want my daughter to live a better life than what I wanted to pursue…’
‘I was incarcerated while I was pregnant – it was very tough.’ Tonya came to New Moms after being released. Before she was incarcerated she was running with the wrong crowd. ‘I got kicked out of my mama’s [house] when I disrespected her.’
But at New Moms she found an opportunity to make a change. She found stability in our Housing Program and a place she could really focus on her life and the future of her daughter.
‘The housing is our own space. I have a studio apartment – everything is like having my own apartment at 21 – I just love it!’
Tonya’s determination is infectious. In parent support group you’ll often find her motivating other young moms in the program, challenging them to take this opportunity at New Moms seriously. She’s not interested in going back to where she came from – she’s moving forward.
Before New Moms’ Tonya shared that she was alone, trying to ‘come up with the next dollar’ to care for her daughter. But now she is surrounded by a whole community of staff and other young moms who are supporting her as she seeks to transform her life. It won’t be easy, but now she won’t be alone on this journey.
Aiesha came to New Moms in August of 2012 with a high school diploma and a vibrant personality. Her short term goal was to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, and she even volunteered at a local hospital to gain experience, but she hit a roadblock after two unsuccessful attempts at passing her certification exam. But she was determined to pursue higher education and decided to attend a local community college to pursue a degree in early childhood development. While furthering her education, Aiesha also completed our Academy of Professional Development (now called our Job Training program) to provide her with job training to help her become economically independent.
Just as she was finishing her paid practicum at Bright Endeavors as part of New Moms’ job training program, Aiesha experienced a significant setback. Her elderly father, for whom she had provided care, became unable to provide stable housing for her and her child. Alone with a young child and no support system, she was forced to enter an emergency shelter. Remembering her positive experience and relationships at New Moms, Aiesha applied for housing at our Transformation Center, and after a short wait, was able to move in to the Transformation Center community.
Aiesha eventually found a permanent housing opportunity, and worked with the New Moms staff to develop a comprehensive exit plan to ensure she was ready for independent living. Aiesha has shown extreme growth and maturity by addressing all barriers toward permanent housing before starting the next chapter of her life. Today she is flourishing in her education, living independently, and continuing to work toward her life goals while being a devoted mother to her son.
Since coming to New Moms, 19-year-old Alicia has dealt with a lot. She came to us eight months pregnant, and after she delivered her daughter, she began coming to New Moms programming every day, learning new parenting and life skills to help take care of her daughter. After a few months, her mother died unexpectedly, leaving behind Alicia’s 8-year-old sister, Amara.
Alicia was devastated, but knew that she had to be strong for her sister. She took over the lease on the apartment they had shared with their mother, and began the process to become Amara’s guardian. Alicia spent time volunteering at New Moms’ front desk, hoping to gain customer service experience. She loves coming to New Moms’ Parent Support Groups, because she feels that they provide stability in her family’s life — and her sister is always welcome in our New Kids program, volunteering as a “junior leader” among New Kids’ infant-and-toddler clientele.
Alicia is now working toward a GED, and plans to take classes to get a nursing license, beginning this year.
Betty is 19, with a 2-year-old son named Leo. She came to New Moms in the summer of 2011, hoping to find a job. She came to New Moms’ Academy of Professional Development with a clear goal to become an IT Administrator. Throughout the course of her training, she looked diligently for employment opportunities in that field. Betty was offered a leadership position at Bright Endeavors, with the opportunity to apply for a rigorous IT training program, which she could complete using Bright Endeavors computers.
While leading participants through Bright Endeavors’ busiest time of year, around the holidays, she was accepted into I.C. Stars’ competitive and highly-regarded IT training program. As she worked, Betty developed self-awareness and self-confidence. She discovered that, in addition to her interest in math and science, she had skills she didn’t even know about—including being very focused and detail-oriented, always seeking ways to improve efficiency. Sharing these processes with her coworkers at Bright Endeavors helped to improve production and efficiency.
Now, Betty is enrolled in the I.C. Stars program, and will work toward her Associate’s degree while completing a year-long paid internship with a large IT company. Betty is thriving in the new program—she recently let us know that she has been named “CEO” of her next group project at I.C. Stars.
Brianne came to New Moms in the summer of 2011, hoping to find a job. She was eighteen years old, with a two-year-old son named Leo. She enrolled in our Academy of Professional Development (now called our Job Training Program), with a clear goal of becoming an IT Administrator. Throughout high school, Brianne had loved learning about computer networking and administration.
While she worked through New Moms’ Academy of Professional Development training program, Brianne searched for jobs in her career field. During her transitional job at Bright Endeavors, New Moms’ staff members were impressed with Brianne’s maturity and leadership skills. She was offered a leadership position at Bright Endeavors, with the opportunity to apply for a rigorous IT training program with I.C. Stars, a partner agency.
While leading participants through Bright Endeavors’ busiest time of year, around the holidays, Brianne was accepted into I.C. Stars’ competitive and highly-regarded IT training program. As she worked through the training program, using Bright Endeavors’ computers during breaks and after her shifts, Brianne developed self-awareness and self-confidence. In addition to her interest in math and science, Brianne discovered skills she didn’t even know about—including an interest in detail-oriented work, and improving efficiency. Sharing these talents with her co-workers at Bright Endeavors helped to improve production and efficiency.
Brianne is now almost finished with the I.C. Stars training program, and she is working toward her Associate’s degree, while completing a paid internship with a large IT company.
Brianne is thriving in the I.C. Stars program—she was recently named “CEO” of a group project, as part of her training.
Candace is a 19 year old with a 5 month old son, Terrence. Candace came to New Moms in spring of 2013 after a series of traumatic life events. Most recently, Candace’s husband had been sent to jail after an episode of domestic violence and child abuse. Candace lost custody of her child as a result of this incident. She also struggled to pay rent for her apartment without the financial assistance she had been receiving from her husband.
Candace came to New Moms’ Academy of Professional Development with many life difficulties, but also with a clear goal to work towards becoming a nurse. While in classroom training, Candace showed a lot of resilience and self-determination towards her life goals, despite the many personal challenges that she was facing.
During her paid practicum at Bright Endeavors, Candace showed a lot of promise in her work. Candace had already grown so much during her time at New Moms. She exhibited skills as an intuitive leader who was self-directed, professional, and kindhearted. She continued to be persistent and maintained a high standard for herself in time management and communication in the workplace. With support and assistance from New Moms staff, Candace was able to help stabilize her housing and get custody of her child.
Through New Moms job search, Candace gained employment working in customer service at 16/hr. This job gave her the confidence and financial stability to take control of her life again. At work, Candace continues to build strong relationships with others and shows many leadership skills. She has enrolled in community college classes for the fall. She will take her prerequisite classes for her nursing degree and keeps her eyes on her future nursing career.
When Jasmine was sixteen-years-old and a junior in high school, she became pregnant. She was struggling to find a job and wanted to give up. In June 2013, at age 19, Jasmine heard about New Moms from a friend. “I didn’t know much about the struggles I was going to face, but I made a promise to myself and my 3-year-old son that I would try, no matter what.”
Jasmine joined New Moms’ Job Training program and completed 5 weeks of training. Jasmine quickly excelled at Bright Endeavors, never missing a day, always arriving on time, and mentoring other participants, like Alicia.
At Bright Endeavors, Jasmine gained on-the-job experience and saw potential in herself that she had never seen before—a career felt possible!
“I went back to school and moved into my first apartment. I was fulfilling my promise. I got my driver’s license and purchased my first vehicle. By the end of 2013 I felt hopeful about my future. I feel like I overcame a lot of statistics. Because of New Moms, I have achieved goals that take some people a lifetime to conquer.” Bright Endeavors offered her a six-month internship as a Production Team Lead, and after that a permanent job as a Production Associate, where she supervised other young moms.
Today, Jasmine is married with three children. She transitioned into a new role at New Moms, in January of 2018, as a Family Support Specialist. Jasmine worked hands-on with families who were going through struggles she went through herself and show them proof of the possibility of true transformation. In 2019, she left New Moms to pursue her graduate degree!
Juanita is 21 years old, with a one-year-old son. Since coming to New Moms, her life has been anything but ordinary. While learning to take care of her newborn son, Juanita was enrolled as a full-time college student, and worked part-time with a security company, while her mother cared for Juanita’s son, in the apartment they shared.
Six months ago, Juanita’s mother passed away unexpectedly. Unable to afford to pay rent on her mother’s apartment by herself, she and her son moved in with her grandmother, and together, they coped with their devastating loss. Determined to succeed and provide a better life for her son, Juanita began working extra hours, and now lives in her own apartment with her son.
She plans to continue college in the fall, with a long-term career goal of becoming a social worker. Now, she wants to work with families in crisis who are dealing with grief. “New Moms really gave me a support to fall back on. Losing my mother made me realize how important it is to be a good parent.”
Kim was accepted into The Academy of Professional Development at New Moms in Jan 2013. She excelled in class and was a natural leader. With help from her Supportive Employment Specialist, Kim was able to remove personal barriers to employment and obtain a job right after finishing the program. Kim now works at Charter One Bank as a bank teller and has a bright future ahead of her.
This past month, we were happy to have Kim come back as a guest speaker in our training classroom. Kim talked about her own financial journey and gave tips and guidance on how to manage personal finances. Kim also presented on some of the benefits of banking at Charter One Bank and coached some of the current Academy participants into opening up their first bank account.
In 2012, Kirsty was twenty-two with a four-year-old son when she entered our Job Training program. She was juggling college, working part-time, and caring for her son. It was exhausting, and even with the strong support of her loved ones, she needed an extra boost to push her through.
New Moms helped her to balance it all. She completed our Job Training program and earned her degree in psychology. Kirsty has been a supervisor since she graduated our program, and she’s taking classes to pursue her dream job in nursing! “New Moms keeps you motivated and encouraged,” Kristy said. “I am grateful to not only have the love and support of my loved ones but to be involved in a program such as New Moms.”
To other participants, Kristy said, “I encourage you to never give up, no matter how tough it gets – keep going.”
Laura came to New Moms at age 19, 9 months pregnant, as a friend of another New Moms participant. She had just graduated from high school, and was enrolled to get her CNA license. When her daughter was born, Laura had to take time off from school to learn parenting skills and bond with her daughter.
While she was off, she got a part-time job at Soldier Field, working with special events, and enrolled in New Moms’ Academy of Professional Development, with a career goal of becoming a nurse. As soon as she could, Laura returned to school to finish her CNA, going straight into a New Moms internship at a healthcare organization.
When she finished her 4-month internship, Laura was hired full-time by her internship site as an administrative assistant. She receives job retention support from New Moms’ Academy of Professional Development staff, and continues to attend parent support groups
Precious is 20 years old, with a 15-month-old daughter named Faith. Precious came to New Moms in early 2011, after her family kicked her out. She and her daughter moved into New Moms’ Cooperative Living Program, and she quickly enrolled in the Academy of Professional Development. From the start, Precious wanted to take advantage of every service New Moms had to offer — and with a career goal of becoming a social worker, she was invited to stay at Bright Endeavors for the duration of her transitional job. In this role, Precious got to develop her leadership skills, training as an intern leader on the Bright Endeavors production floor.
While at Bright Endeavors, Precious was accepted into the Chicago Housing Authority program, and moved from New Moms’ Cooperative Living Program to her own apartment, where she has been stably housed for over 6 months.
After completing her internship, Precious moved into the job search phase. It was challenging, and for several weeks, Precious went on many interviews, without being offered a job. However, when a new 6-month Team Leader position opened up at Bright Endeavors, Precious applied for, and was offered the position. She started in September 2011, and has since trained more than 30 participants in candle making, inventory, customer service, shipping, and bookkeeping.
Over this time, Precious has become a confident, self-aware leader who is self-directed, professional, kindhearted, and thoughtful. She is persistent, and has developed strong conflict resolution skills. Her communication skills have improved tremendously.
Adrienne first joined New Moms program in 1995. She was a senior in high school and pregnant when her acquaintance Sabrina brought her to one of our Family Support Groups. She took a break from the program when her daughter died but later reconnected with New Moms when she had her second child in 1997.
What she remembers most from her time at New Moms are the outings coaches planned for participants. She said each year, New Moms would organize a weekend retreat to Timberland Camp for all the young moms. She said she also remembers being connected with a sister organization called “Literature for All of Us” the held creative writing retreats.
A few years ago, Adrienne moved to Georgia with her family. She is now the mother of two daughters and one son all of which have graduated high school. Adrienne herself has gone back to college because her employer is paying for technology certifications. She is hoping this training will allow her to climb the professional ladder at her company.
Adrienne said she is a firm believer that you are the sum of your experiences and that all her hard lessons and blessings prepared her for where she is now. If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self, “You will learn and grow. So, hang in there, it will all make sense.”
To current moms at New Moms, she encouraged them to ask for help and not be afraid of judgment or rejection. She said, “If you need it, say something because resources and programs lose funding if no one utilizes them.” She wants all moms to take advantage of the resources available to them and to spread the word to their friends and families.
Adrienne is excited to see how much New Moms has grown over the years and would like to connect with other alumni and give back to the current group of young moms.
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.”
“My name is Cheryl Darling and 10 years ago I lived at New Moms Shelter from 1997-1998. New Moms was the only family that attended my high school graduation. There after high school I got a job at the Chicago Hilton & Towers as an Administrative Assistant and moved to my own 2 bedroom apartment. I am still a single mother and for the last 3 years I have been working as a Technical Analyst at ADP (Automatic Data Processing- payroll company) making over $40,000. I have a beautiful townhome and am still working on my BA at DeVry University majoring in Computer Information Systems. I wanted to tell you all this because I want New Moms clients to know that there are single women out here who can and are making it day to day. I hope to be one of you guys success stories. I love my children and myself and I thank New Moms now and back then for taking a chance on me.”
Denise was born and raised in Chicago. At 19 years old, she was living with her two children in a shelter for families before being referred to New Moms in 1998. She still remembers her fully furnished, New Moms apartment which was located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
While in the program, Denise finished high school and graduated from South Suburban Community College. She said the support she received from New Moms coaches was an important reason she was able to pursue her education.
“I just thought that I wouldn’t be able to ever finish,” Denise said. “I just thought that I would be a statistic and a dropout, so my biggest achievement was being able to go back to school and actually get a degree.”
She said her favorite memory from New Moms was the Christmas Store. During the annual participant Christmas party, moms could play games to win tickets which they redeemed at the Christmas store for gifts for themselves and their kids. She said her first year, the store was a surprise to the moms. They thought they were just playing games for fun. When it was revealed they could shop for Christmas presents, they were all so excited.
Denise is now married and the mother of four children. She is happy to say her two oldest girls have both graduated from college with their Bachelor’s degrees. Denise herself had gone back to school and is studying nursing at Ambria College of Nursing.
She is still in touch with other New Moms alumni. She said they bonded while attending Parent Support Groups together. In fact, a group of them would walk over from their apartments to the main New Moms’ building every week for their meeting.
To current young moms, Denise said that she knows how challenging it can be but, “set those goals and you’ll succeed.” She said she learned so much about herself while at New Moms and was proud of finishing school and starting her career.
“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.”
“I can say at the age of 44, New Moms was one of the best opportunities to be a part of. It was just great. The friendships that were made are still here all these years later. I still think about things I’ve learned and was able to get through – I went through a lot while at New Moms – and the support that was there from the ladies that ran the program.”
Lakeisha came to New Moms around 1993 when she was 16 years old. She had a few friends in the New Moms’ parent support group who brought her along to some of the meetings. (Back then there was only one parent support group and it met on Wednesday evenings.) Lakeisha remembers that there was a group of moms who would walk to the meetings together. After school, they would all pick up their kids and on the way to New Moms they would stop by the park for a bit so the kids could let out their energy.
She said the best part about New Moms’ program was the support system it provided. She developed friendships with the other moms and found a mother-figure in the New Moms coaches.
“I didn’t have the type of support the ladies at New Moms gave me at home,” said Lakeisha, whose own mother had her at 14. “I didn’t have a motherly figure that I felt comfortable speaking with or talking with.”
The coaches at New Moms provided emotional support for Lakeisha when she went through two adoptions during her time in the program. She said no one knew she was pregnant at the time except for the folks at New Moms.
“I don’t know if I really would have gotten through that without going to New Moms,” said Lakeisha, who gave two sons up for adoption. “New Moms helped me get through that and out of the abusive relationship that I was in. They helped me feel like an adult as opposed to feeling like a little girl.”
Lakeisha now lives on the South Side in the Oak Wood Area and has been working in the field of Transportation and Logistics for nine years. She recently completed Spa School and would like to transition into a career in Wellness and Beauty. She is the proud mother of seven sons and one three-year-old daughter.
To young moms currently enrolled with New Moms Lakeisha says, “Take this program and make the best out of it. Take these sisterhoods and make the best out of it.”
She said in her experience, it’s important to “stay positive about the situation” because even if life is full of struggles right now, that doesn’t mean the struggles are going to last.
“Be kind to yourself and be kind to your kids,” Lakeisha said. “And keep going. If you need help, ask for it.”
“My name is Shondrial and I was a participant of New Moms Residential Program in 1999. I just wanted to say thank you to New Moms for allowing me in the program and teaching me some valuable lessons. I was introduced to New Moms at the age of 19 as a single parent of 2 small children. I moved to Chicago not knowing anyone there but my children’s father, who began hitting me for no apparent reason. I was scared and began calling different shelters for help. One of the domestic violence shelters gave me the phone number to New Moms. My dream at that time was to be a chef. So staff helped me get enrolled in Chicago Community Kitchens. New Moms also helped me find a job in my field and helped me learn how to budget my money. After I moved on from the program, staff even helped me find my first house to rent. I then moved from Chicago to Atlanta in 2001. I am now married to a good man who loves me and my children. I have a career managing the legal department at a law firm here in Atlanta. My husband and I have had 2 more children and bought our first home earlier this year. The lessons I’ve learned from New Moms are “never give up” and “always try”. Thank you all for helping me and my family. New Moms has truly made a difference in my life and I love you all for that.”
New Moms (Chicago)
5317 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60651
New Moms (Western Suburbs)
206 Chicago Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302