JennyAs children get ready to head back to school each fall, their minds grow with nervous excitement as the new year approaches! Part of the excitement definitely involves school supplies.  “Ok, I need pens, pencils, notebooks, diapers, bottles, formula…” “Wait?! Diapers and formula?” you ask. While these items may not be on your children’s school supply list, these and much more were on seventeen-year-old Jennifer’s list.

Jennifer was about to begin her senior year of high school when she found out that she was pregnant. This pregnancy was not in her plans as she had hoped to study nursing in college. She was not sure how she could manage finishing school and caring for a baby, however she was determined. At her first ultrasound, she found out that she was actually pregnant with twins! This is when the fear really set in. How was a seventeen-year-old girl going to finish high school with not one, but two babies?

Jennifer’s family responded to her pregnancy with hurt, anger, and disappointment. She remembers her father’s frustration as he realized that there was no way to change the fact that his little girl would soon have children of her own. So, he insisted that no matter what the circumstances, she would finish high school and be a good example to her babies.

A counselor at school told Jennifer about a program, run by Christians, who could help her pay for daycare and enrolled in the program. Before the girls were even born, Jennifer met Debbie, her new mentor. Debbie had raised twins of her own and was able to help Jennifer prepare for her new role as mother of two.

Twenty-five weeks into the pregnancy, Jennifer was confined to bed rest. Looking back, she believes that getting a tutor during this time was the reason she was able to finish school on time. Isabela and Jocelyn were born in February and Jennifer was able to graduate from high school that June.

The twins were just over a month when Jennifer attended her first program meeting. She recounts, “You walk in, they love you… welcome you like you are part of the family. You feel the love right away.” She enjoyed meeting other girls who were having the same experiences. Debbie was an extraordinary help to Jennifer by answering phone calls at any time of day, and providing solutions to questions about the babies. She lent her hands to help Jennifer during shopping trips, and even helped look for jobs and fill out the endless paperwork and applications. Jennifer was surprised that someone outside of her family could show her love. Debbie and Jennifer are still friends today.

Although Jennifer assimilated easily, Isabela and Jocelyn faced a language barrier. Jennifer and her family only spoke Spanish to the girls. Thankfully, the  Program Director was able to find a Spanish speaking child care volunteer to watch the children during meetings. Having a bi-lingual caretaker during meetings allowed the girls to better interact with the other children, and soon both girls looked forward to attending.

Not only was the program influential in helping Jennifer finish high school, but also helping her begin and finish a CNA program. She remembers all of the mentors pushing her to do the program and telling her, “You can do it! I’ll help you study… I’ll help you do this.” After three years with the ministry, Jennifer was ready to graduate from the program, and “do the next step.”

Jennifer’s twins are now four years old, and are headed into their second year of preschool. They are very excited for the coming school year as they tackle the challenge of tying their shoes. Jocelyn is an independent little girl that wants to play soccer and work on cars with her daddy, and Isabela prefers going shopping and would really like to be a ballerina when she grows up.

Jennifer is now a member of the Teen Mom Alumni group and on occasion attends the regular meetings with new teen moms. She understands how hard life is in the beginning as a new mom, and she encourages them to not give up, even though they may be stressed and tired. She is definitely a successful role model for these girls to follow.

Jennifer’s future is bright. She also hopes to return to school and become a nurse once the girls go to school full time. She considers herself blessed to be with a man who stayed by her side throughout the whole pregnancy and birth. To someone going through a similar situation, her advice would be to, “Embrace the change that is about to happen. Do not regret what has happened, because the baby is a blessing. You find the strength you need to keep going when you come home and see their faces, that is how you change.” She also wants girls to know that, “There are people that actually do care about you and want to help you.”