Share your story as a teenage pregnant student with a motivating message for new pregnant teens. Let others know how your mentor, support groups or RN working with the Teenage Incentive Program, Inc. impacted your life.
It’s tough and emotional to explain how being a teen mom impacts you. It’s all a very overwhelming process. From the moment you hear, “You’re pregnant.” For me, it was a huge question, “What am I going to do?” I was already 26 weeks when I found out that I was pregnant and in just a few months my baby would be born.
How I became and got involved with the TIP organization was by chance of God. The day after my son was born a sweet lady with the biggest smile came into my hospital room and asked how I was, if I was OK, and if I needed anything. She told me she wasn’t my nurse, but she was here to help me. That was Mrs. Mason. She left a few things for me and my mom and told us how she could support us with NEW LIFE and TIP, to help and make sure we had health care coverage and WIC and anything else that we might need. At first. I didn’t get in touch right away being a new mom was an overwhelming experience at 17. I had no idea what to do! Six weeks later I went back to school, ran into Mrs. Mason, and was reintroduced to NEW LIFE and TIP.
Through TIP I was able to learn new skills that were truly going to help me as a young mom. How to keep going and not give up and not think “this is the end of the line” and “this is all my life is going to be”. About once a month, she would show up, talk to us about TIP and mentoring and if we needed anybody, call her. Anybody to help, she would come. TIP showed us new skills on how to mother our new babies, how to sit at dinner for an interview, etiquette on how to present yourself and things you should say and not say in an interview. Then my big opportunity was getting a job with NEW LIFE and TIP. This was my first real office setting and at 17!
I helped work in the office, file paperwork, helped by calling other young girls my age who were pregnant and going through the same overwhelming things. Doing all of this helped me push and gave me hope that I could go to college and do more for me and my son. I did have a very helpful support system with my aunt, she was willing to look after my son while I went to college. I took all the skills I learned through TIP and NEW LIFE, that I didn’t realize I had picked up. How to talk to people, organizational skills, valuing myself. I worked hard, finished school in 3 ½ years, got a job and came home to my son. Dedication, working hard and walking in the path that God he set for me, remembering to value the little things along the way have gotten me to where I am.
I’m blessed to say I’m a marketing and sales manager for a $6 million/year company and I’m able to provide the things that me and my son need and even a little extra to do the things we love!
By Karisa Norfleet
A mother of three, Raelene Sawyer, decided one winter day it was time for a new start and leaving Kansas City, Missouri was the best decision.
Raelene was going through a hard time with her child’s father and soon packed up her belongings. She made the decision for her and her 14-year-old daughter, Angil Lewis, to board a Greyhound bus with no destination.
“I just picked up and left and didn’t tell anyone. I was just ready to leave Kansas City,” Raelene said.
When the bus made its last stop in Houston, Texas, Raelene and Angil departed the bus with little money and nowhere to go.
The homeless shelter and outside parks were where they would lay their heads at night. But Raelene had no idea that two more curve balls was going to be thrown her way.
While living in the homeless shelter, Angil voiced to her mother that she was pregnant. Raelene was in denial and dismissed Angil until Christmas Day.
Angil was provided with a pregnancy test and the results were positive.
“Oh my gosh! That’ my baby girl!” Raelene screamed outside. “Oh Lord Jesus. Not my baby girl!” she continued.
Soon after, April 4, 2020, Raelene’s mother, Regina died. The passing of their mother/grandmother affected Raelene and Angil’s lives greatly.
Raelene was homeless with a pregnant teenage daughter and just lost her mother. And Angil was 14 years old and pregnant, homeless, and just lost her grandmother.
Raelene and Angil began calling 211 for information and different organizations to see how they could receive help and that is when the Teenage Incentive Program stepped in.
The TIP swooped in and began providing and supporting the family. The women from T.I.P. showed up to Raelene and Angil’s empty new apartment with gifts to help the family.
“(TIP) helped me with me and Angil’s beds. Pots and pans, sheets, blankets.,” Raelene said.
TIP has provided baby beds, baby clothes, diapers, cooking utensils, and other supplies and furniture for the family. TIP’s staff calls the family daily to make sure the family is doing well and to check and see if they may need anything else.
Angil birthed her healthy baby girl, Royalty Regina Faith, June 2020. Since the birth, Angil has started school online due to COVID-19 and looks forward to her future of becoming a Nurse.
“I really want to help homeless people,” Angil said. “That was me one time on the street. I don’t want to see that.”.
Remembering what her mother Regina always told her, “If there is something you want to do in life, go for it and never give up,” and Raelene did just that.
Raelene is currently enrolled and studying to become a Medical Assistant. She is expected to graduate in 2021.
“(TIP) helps us with a lot of stuff,” Raelene said. “I tell my daughter we are blessed because we wouldn’t have anything.”
“I am really thankful for everything (TIP) has done for me and Angil,” Raelene said.
The Teenage Incentive Program is happy to have Raelene, Angil, and Royalty Regina Faith apart of the program.
By Karisa Norfleet
Imagine being a 19-year-old mother. Seems hard doesn’t it? Now, imagine being a teenage mother with a mentor? Sounds better knowing someone is there to help you along the way, doesn’t it?
Well, that is how Naomi Coleman feels about her mentor/mentee relationship with Jessica Foster.
Naomi Coleman was dating the father of her child for three years before she found out about her pregnancy. Naomi and her boyfriend were having an altercation when she noticed “something felt off” about her. She went to the store to purchase a pregnancy test and took it with her boyfriend. When they got the results, Naomi’s boyfriend suggested taking the test again the next day.
Naomi’s sister then stepped in and took her to the Fifth Ward Pregnancy Help Center. Naomi took the pregnancy test and was informed on how far along she was. Missing her following appointment, she was given Mrs. Mattie Mason’s, New Life Prenatal, information.
With excitement, she spread the news to she and her boyfriend’s family. Shortly after, Naomi moved in with her boyfriend.
The relationship throughout the three years was “What we call being in a ‘toxic relationship’”, Naomi says. She says the relationship became ‘super toxic’ after they moved in together. While still pregnant, Naomi broke things off with her boyfriend and moved back home with her family.
After moving back home, Naomi was contacted by Jessica Foster, T.I.P. mentor. Naomi was not sure about the program and ignored the first contact. When Jessica reached out again, Naomi responded back, and the mentor and mentee relationship began.
Since Jessica has been mentoring Naomi, Naomi says her communication skills have improved. “At first, I didn’t like to talk to anybody.” Naomi says, once she saw Jessica listened to her, she knew she could trust her mentor.
If a situation rubs Naomi the wrong way or if she simply wants to express herself and get feedback, Jessica is who Naomi contacts first.
“If I didn’t contact Jessica, I think I would be back in the same position I was in,” Naomi said.
By Karisa Norfleet
“I absolutely believe mentors are needed”, Jessica Foster said, T.I.P. 2020 Mentor of the Year and T.I.P. Assistant Administrator. “We are always learning every day and to share wisdom with others is phenomenal.”
Jessica began volunteering with T.I.P. in 2018 when she volunteered at church. After the one-day of volunteering, Jessica asked Mrs. Mattie Mason, Founder of T.I.P., if she could become a permanent volunteer. Jessica felt since she was a pregnant teen herself, she can relate and connect with the teens that are pregnant.
“I did not have a mentor and Lord knows I needed one,” Jessica said. “If I had a mentor, I am sure I would have made some different choices. I guess that’s why I take mentoring serious because I know if I had one it would have changed my life.”
Mentoring five teenagers so far, Jessica says she has learned how to be more compassionate. “Mentoring others has humbled me because I have the opportunity to impact a teen’s life in a positive way. TIP can help reroute their path in life even if they are pregnant or have already had their babies.”
“I’ve also learned that our youth need more guidance. Yes, they may show as if they don’t need your advice, but deep down they are hearing you.”
Some advice for Jessica’s future mentees is, “Don’t entertain the negativity. You are more than a conqueror. Teenage Incentive will be walking with you every step of the way.”
Jessica currently does not have a mentor, but she looks up to Mrs. Mattie Mason. “I see her heart and her compassion for the youth.”
“Advice for the fellow mentors is care for the mentees as you’d want to be cared for.”
By Karisa Norfleet
Being a mother can be challenging but being a mother in high school can be even more challenging. Reflecting on her high school pregnancy almost 30 years ago, Raquel has learned a lot about being a mother with the help of Mattie and the Teenage Incentive Program.
“The only thing that made us different as mothers was that we were young. In other cultures, 15-years-old is the right age to have a baby. At the end of the day, you are still a mom, no matter how old you are.”
At the time of her pregnancy, TIP was just getting started and Raquel was one of the first teenage mothers to be a part of the program. TIP first came into her life after finding out she was pregnant and had no idea what her options were. As she got further along in her pregnancy, the school began a program to help her.
During the development of the program at her school, she would go to a specific class/teacher that helped her with the classwork of a class she could not physically get to because of her pregnancy. Mattie heard of Raquel and came to her school to help her further when it came to work, being a teenage mother, and making some tough decisions.
Raquel says TIP helped her get on WIC, assisted in everyday tasks of being a mother, and with schoolwork. They were her own little teacher aside from the teachers on campus. There was no such thing as maternity leave for a high school student, so her school and TIP made sure she managed her time wisely and finished her schoolwork to stay on track to graduate on time.
After having her baby, Mattie came to Raquel’s house to show her how to care for her newborn.
Having her grandparents watch her baby as she went to school half a day and worked at the Shell oil company the other half was how she survived her high school years.
Graduating on time as planned all while working, providing, and spending time with her baby was hard but attainable. “It’s hard for teens to be a mother, it is hard for grown people, too. Do not let that deter you, your kids can be great. If you do not have the means, find the means. Some people prepare, but no one says, ‘I’m going to be the perfect mom’.”
Over the years Mattie and Raquel have kept in contact with one another.
“Thank you for being there for me and helping me with my classes,” says Raquel. “Helping me with my kid because I didn’t know a lot about being a mother.”
Raquel has two children that she has put through college. and would like teen moms everywhere to know, “Always keep your head up. “I know it gets hard and tough. Take care of your kids because they are your kids. Mentor them. Keep an open communication. I think that’s why my kids have done well. It is not the end of the world if you have a kid young.”
By Karisa Norfleet
A large portion of who I am… is owed to the Teenage Incentive Program.
I was pregnant and seventeen struggling with low self-esteem
And so far from living the “American Dream”
That’s when God sent me a bird
A bird with a Word!
This bird reminded me that it was not how smart I was but how determined!
This did not mean I was not intelligent, but that if I desired more, I had to have a level of tenacity
An enlightened drive inside of me to envision what others could not or would not see
Birds symbolize the magnificent wings of possibilities
The freedom to fly high
High above and beyond situations and circumstance it’s the freedom to grab another chance.
My bird was Robin, and she was my RN, and later became one of my best friends.
She encouraged me to attend HCC, helped with FAFSA and showed me what to do
And low and behold I was enrolled, and pregnant again with baby number two.
That’s when the TIP motto began to ring louder and truer for me
“It’s not how smart you are, but how determined!”
I was determined not to fail. I was determined to excel.
I was determined to dig deep into my well of knowledge
And I graduated from Houston Community College.
Earning my Associates in Liberal Arts was merely my start.
I wanted more…
And long before there was a presidential candidate named Barack Obama
There was my TIP nurse saying Yes You Can! Yes, you can earn your bachelors! Yes, you can be a great Mama!
I wanted to attend Grambling State University, Robin’s alma mater, and she said yes you can!
And when I wanted to give up, she held my hand.
I packed up my two-year-old and four-year-old daughters to relocate
Not just up the street, around the corner, but where we knew no one in an entirely different state.
The Teenage Incentive Program assisted with securing donated furniture for my two-bedroom apartment literally across the street from Grambling State.
I enrolled my four-year-old in Head Start, my two-year-old in day care, and we were on our way.
When I started with T.I.P. I had zero degrees
But the program showed me that I could have so much more!
So today I am proud to say that I ended up with four.
One Associates, Two Bachelors’, and Master of Arts in Teaching
And the very message of this program to my current students and my on children you will hear me preaching!
“It’s not how smart you are, but how determined.”
This is a lifelong lesson worth teaching and definitely learning.
As for my two girls they are leaders and believers
Smart and determined, now twenty and twenty-two
The younger one a junior at Grambling State and the elder a graduate of Howard U!
For all of this, Teenage Incentive Program I earnestly thank you!
“I was selfish and that’s why I didn’t give him up. I was making a selfish decision, so I decided to provide a life for him,” says Bianca, a former pregnant teenager.
Pregnant at the age of 15, Bianca has overcome obstacles to ensure her and her child’s future.
Bianca was an honor roll student who participated in her high school Jazz Band, Color Guard, and other extracurricular activities when she discovered she was pregnant. She was a model, Christian student when she found out she was 15 and pregnant. She knew her family was popular in the community and did not want to embarrass them. “I didn’t want to come out with (being pregnant) because I didn’t want them to think my parents were bad,” Bianca says.
Approaching her Sweet 16, she decided to reveal her pregnancy to her family. Her family was immediately disappointed, shocked, and canceled her Sweet 16 celebration. “My dad was irate,” says Bianca. “I was four months along in my pregnancy.”
The weekend Bianca had decided to terminate her pregnancy, she came across a newspaper article with Barbra Stewart. In the article, Stewart was informing people about her school where pregnant teenagers or teenage moms could go and receive the support and resources they needed. “It happened to come out at a great time,” she said. After reading the article and deciding to keep her baby, Bianca was asked to leave her parent’s home. She packed her things and went to live with her sister (until she was told to come back home).
While attending the school for teen mothers, the Teenage Incentive Program stepped in, to further help Bianca in becoming a new mother. TIP was a support system for Bianca that taught her how to care for a newborn baby, helped with schoolwork, and counseling and mentorship.
While life may have seemed hard, Bianca remained on the honor roll, continued her extracurricular activities, and got a job. Sleeping only two hours a night and making sure to spend time with her newborn was her new life and nothing could stop her. “He is my child, not anyone else’s, so I worked hard to make sure he was taken care of. I wanted to be financially responsible.”
Five years after high school, making First Chair in the Houston Symphony and turning it down to be a mother, she became a speaker for TIP. She would speak to teenage girls at her former high school and other local high schools in the Houston area to encourage the teens to be responsible. “I would tell them don’t depend on anybody else but themselves. Don’t depend on a guy because they can be gone.”
A few years went by before Bianca decided she was getting older to where the teenagers would not listen to her. She enjoyed speaking twice a year but remembered when she was younger that older women would come to speak to her school and she could not relate.
“I told Mattie I didn’t mind speaking, but they would benefit from a younger speaker.”
Now, Bianca is a Director of Nursing, a mother of two children, 28 and 17-years-old, and a successful Dog Show Breeder. “Thank you for the support,” to the Teenage Incentive Program.
By: Karisa Norfleet
The Teenage Incentive Program has been helping young women for over 25 years in the Houston area.
Over those years TIP has connected, lost touch, and reconnected with the young ladies in the program, and Anita is one of them.
Anita was just a junior in high school when she found out she was pregnant. An alternative school that helps pregnant young women stay on track to graduate is where she met Mattie and the ladies of TIP.
Contemplating whether to keep or abort her child, while four to five months pregnant, TIP stepped in to talk and help her decide what was the best decision. TIP went over every option available to help her determine what was best for her and her baby. TIP also listened and let Anita and other young ladies express themselves on how they were feeling and what they were going through.
“Mattie helped me talk it through,” Anita said. “Just sharing those thoughts helped me.”
Anita had her son and graduated on time as planned, all while the TIP ladies stayed in contact and continuously helped her and other young ladies in the same circumstances.
“The ladies were very resourceful. They were dedicated to helping us.”
After high school, she lost contact with the Teenage Incentive Program and the women.
Years later, Anita looked for Mattie and reached out to her by letter. In the letter, Anita thanked Mattie and the Teenage Incentive Program for helping her, when she was a part of the program in high school.
Looking back as an adult, she can now recognize how caring and resourceful Mattie and TIP were to her when she was younger. A few years after reconnecting by letter and phone calls, Anita and TIP lost contact again but soon discovered she and Mattie attend the same church, Hope City. “We crossed paths again and I definitely thought it was God’s intent,” Anita said.
Anita and Mattie reconnected and have stayed in contact by reflecting over the years of how the Teenage Incentive Program was active in Anita’s life during her teenage pregnancy.
“Thank you for your services. We were meant to cross paths. Though I didn’t mention how (Mattie) impacted my life back then but I recognize it now.”
Anita is a proud mother of two, including her teen pregnancy baby who will be 25 in September 2020. Anita works in Human Resources at a retirement home and has a Meal Prep business that she enjoys.
By: Karisa Norfleet
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