SONY DSCLife is a journey, full of twists and turns, highs and lows. Life throws in surprises at times, in addition to the life-changing fork in the road. At the culmination of life, most look back and see what a beautiful journey their life really was, and that every mountain and valley that was crossed made them a better person. For Linda, life threw in a major surprise when she was eighteen. She was pregnant.

Feeling scared and lost, Linda kept her secret for as long as she could. When Linda finally broke the news, her mother was extremely disappointed, angry, and hurt. Friends and other family members were concerned for Linda, but mostly supportive once they realized that Linda was intent on having the baby.

The friction between Linda and her mother forced her to leave home. Linda moved in with her aunt and uncle, who welcomed her with open arms. Along with a good home, they provided encouragement and support during the pregnancy. Once Linda’s daughter Aiyana was born, Linda’s mother’s heart softened and she became the grandmother Aiyana needed.

Linda’s daughter was about two years old when she entered the program. Linda heard about the organization though a friend and was more than skeptical about these nice people. She could not comprehend why they wanted to help her. At the time, she did not believe, “that there were any good people in the world or anyone nice enough to help without asking for anything in return.”

Linda’s apprehensions about the group slowly started to lift as she listened to mentors with similar experiences tell about how they, “were able to persevere in life and make something out of their lives.” She remembers all of the mentors and the Site Director being very positive and loving. This encouragement was a relief and gave her a sense, “that everything was going to be ok.” Through the mentor’s actions, Linda was assured that the motive behind their kindness was only to demonstrate God’s love, not for their own personal benefit. She had never known or seen God’s love before.

Lynne became Linda’s mentor. To use Linda’s words, “Lynne was awesome.” She was positive and non-judgmental. Linda could tell her anything and know that she loved her anyway. She made Linda, “feel like there was a solution to anything and everything, [Lynne] made me feel safe.” Linda now realizes how blessed she was to have Lynne as her role model. Linda’s daughter loved Lynne too, and was always greeted with a big hug.

Linda stayed in the program for two years. She enjoyed the retreats and workshops immensely. “Child Discipline,” was most helpful as this class answered many of her questions. This workshop also helped her properly prioritize her life and see what was truly important in life. Although the classes were extremely helpful, Linda’s favorite time in the program was the opportunity to bond with her mentor as well as hearing testimonials of other mentors in the group.

After two years, Linda felt that the time had come for her to graduate from this wonderful safe haven. She also realized that her graduation would open up an opportunity for another girl just beginning her journey as a teen mom. Looking back, Linda was amazed how much this stopping point in the program, made her into a better person. She was most proud that she had fully grasped God’s love, which she never knew existed. She accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was baptized. This decision not only affected her journey on earth, but also her final destination of heaven.

Linda is still a part of the Teen Mom Alumni group. Even now, she finds the group very helpful and savors the time connecting with staff and alumni every month. She has developed a new passion–running. Linda has been running for just over a year and has lost fifty pounds! Racing to raise funds for the ministry helped inspire her to pursue something that she never in a million years thought she could do. She plans to complete her first half-marathon this year as a part of the organization’s racing team.

In 2010, Linda also married her daughter’s father. She now works full time as an EDI Specialist and is currently taking classes to finish her Bachelors degree, with hopes of pursuing a Master’s degree as well. She is determined to get the most out of this life and be the best role model she can be for her daughter and for future young mothers. She desires to, “give hope to the hopeless,” by being a speaker for teen moms.

For her daughter, Aiyana, Linda desires that she find her calling in life early. She wants her to follow God, be a respectful young woman, pursue her dreams, and become a productive member in society.

To the teen mothers who are just beginning their expedition, Linda shares, “Be positive and know that ANYTHING is possible. Have faith and know that whatever you are passionate about, whatever your dreams are you can achieve! Do not give up and DO NOT settle for less…” Before Linda makes a decision, she asks herself, “Would this make my daughter proud?” She also encourages, “Sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. You will NOT regret it.”

Linda’s journey is more than inspirational. She has experienced the lows of rejection and despair, the highs of graduation and marriage, the twists and turns of parenthood and life decisions, and the future goals of education and hope for her child. Amazingly, her journey is not yet complete. Who knows the corners she will turn or the mountains she will climb as she continues, “to give hope to the hopeless.”