D.C.’s Generation Hope Is Putting Teen Mothers on the Pathway to Brighter Futures

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Image: Imagesbybarbara/Getty Images.

“I was eight months pregnant, living day-to-day in a Motel 6, when I found out that I had been admitted into William & Mary,” wrote Nicole Lynn Lewis in a recent op-ed. The author and philanthropist has made it her life’s work to amplify the difficulties faced by teen parents and the unfair burden placed on pregnant girls

This month the founder of Generation Hope, an organization that links teen parents with the resources needed to help them and their children survive and thrive, released the paperback of her book Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families. The personal memoir details Lewis’ journey as a young mother overcoming hurdles of homelessness, bias, and parenting in a flawed system of higher education. 

Though teen pregnancy has been on the decline over the last several decades, the CDC estimates that every year 160,000 females aged 15-19 give birth and become mothers. And in 2019, the birth rates for Hispanic teens (25.3 percent) and non-Hispanic Black teens (25.8 percent) were more than two times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic White teens (11.4 percent). Lewis says young mothers of color, in particular, “are often at the nexus of multiple class and race-centered issues that contribute to teen pregnancy and are reflected in higher education.” Generation Hope provides opportunities for these student parents to succeed and experience economic mobility.

According to the ACLU, teen pregnancy is the number one reason girls drop out of school. In the United States, it is the reason more than 50 percent of teen mothers never graduate from high school and why only 2 percent graduate from college by the time they are 30. “Thwarted by stigmas, judgment and systemic hurdles in higher education, young mothers’ collegiate journeys are often prematurely shortened or summarized by their struggle to balance motherhood and a lack of support in higher education,” says Lewis. 

In her memoir, Lewis further explains what shame can do for both mother and child, saying, “Rather than reducing teen pregnancy, shame ironically exacerbates many of the negative outcomes for mother and child. Shame produces nothing good. It only threatens the health and well-being of both mother and child and hinders opportunities that could improve a mother’s ability to provide for her family.”

To date, Generation Hope has helped over 100 student parents finish their degrees, 67 percent of which are first-generation college students. The non-profit’s work centers around a model dedicated to a whole-family approach to dismantling poverty and carving out space for economic mobility for a segment of the population that is often ignored.

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