SONY DSCHave you ever had a surreal experience? An experience so shocking that time passed in slow motion, making you believe you were walking through a dream? That is exactly where fourteen-year-old Kendall found herself, after discovering that she was pregnant. She kept telling herself, “I can’t really be pregnant.” She lived in denial, keeping her secret from her family for seven months. Rumors traveled quickly among her fellow students at school, however the news never reached her family.

Kendall seemed to be living the American dream. She lived with her mother and father, older brother, and grandmother. She was always the “good girl,” neither causing trouble at school, nor giving her parents reason to worry. Kendall’s fourteen-year-old life was in perfect order, or so it seemed. She was not the type of girl to have boys around her all of the time, but one eighteen year old young man did hold her attention. Although they were not dating, Kendall found herself alone, carrying his baby.

Kendall was seven months along when she finally broke the news to her family. They too were in shock. Her parents were not angry, just stunned, however her brother would not even speak to her. Instead of returning to school after Christmas break, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Devin. The father once again became interested in Kendall and his baby. Kendall, now fifteen, found herself easily manipulated by this boy, and eighteen months later, Kelsie was born.

When she was seventeen, a friend, who was expecting a baby, asked if Kendall would go with her to a meeting for teen moms. Kendall agreed to accompany her apprehensive friend to the first meeting, not expecting to receive any benefit, but at the end of the night both girls had joined the program. During the first year, Kendall found a place that was fun for her and her children. Not until the second year did she really begin to reap the benefits.

Kendall’s new “Mentor” for the year became more than just a mentor; Melissa became a life-long friend, and a confidant. She, like Kendall, had a boy and a girl about the same age. Melissa embraced Kendall and her children, assisting in any and every way.  Kendall finally had someone she could talk too and confide in. There were not many friends Kendall’s age dealing with potty training a two year old, let alone friends at all. Melissa shared in Kendall’s burdens, opened up her home for play dates, and helped Kendall sign up for classes at the community college, completely expanding her outlook on life.

Along with the friendship of Melissa, the teen mother program provided Kendall with transportation and helped her get her driver’s license which allowed her to attend classes and hold down her jobs. She was also able to gain life skills from the program’s weekly meetings.

Kendall found a close-knit group that cared about her problems and what she was going through. The program also taught her how to help herself. The mentors,  “always had answers.” Along with the answers, they had prayers. Some of Kendall’s favorite meetings were called, “Prayer and Share Nights.” This was a time where all of the mentors and girls shared their experiences with each other, provided encouragement, and assistance.

Two years after joining the program, Kendall believed that the time had come for her to graduate and to allow another teen mom the opportunity to benefit from what she had received. This graduation was a bitter-sweet time, for Kendall had grown to love the people around her. She missed being a part of the weekly meetings, as did her children.

Shortly after graduation, Kendall became part of the Teen Mom Alumni group. This group made the transition from graduation easier and is still a big part of Kendall’s life. The Alumni meet together for encouragement, and to support the ministry through volunteering and events.  Kendall feels this is important for graduates to see how to give back to the organization that has helped them so much.

At the beginning of her journey as a teen mom, Kendall was terrified for her future, and that future has become a wonderful success story. She currently works for the park district, is a real estate agent, and a pre-school teacher. Although these jobs keep her quite busy, she is still able to be home with her other young children. As if this were not enough to enough to occupy her time, she is also finds time to provide volunteer childcare for the program.  Kelsie, almost in high school, also helps volunteer and Devin raises funds by running 5K races for the organization.

The future is bright for Kendall as she focuses completely on her children. Her children are successful because Kendall has worked extremely hard to get them to where they are, and has faced insurmountable obstacles to become the dedicated, loving example she is for her children. They have much to be proud of.