There were times this year when Cheyanne Garcia wanted to give up.
She had been in an abusive relationship and had almost lost her life the summer before her senior year of high school. But the thought of her daughter kept her going.
“I told myself I couldn’t give up because I had a daughter who was watching me,” Cheyanne, 17, said. “I had to set an example for her.”
From left: Kathy Sharp (Polly Fox Academy), Rosalyn Whickum (University of Toledo), Cheyanne Garcia (Bowsher High School), Kayla Shay Goben and Gabriel Harris (Mom's House preschool) celebrate their graduation before the Mom's House Graduation ceremony at the Summit Event Center in Toledo.
Cheyanne is one of four young women whose graduations were lauded Wednesday with awards, speeches, a slideshow, and cake at a celebration held by Mom’s House, a childcare center for infants and toddlers of young mothers, at the Summit Event Center. Two graduating preschoolers, Kayla Shay Goben and Gabriel Harris, were also recognized.
The center strives to break cycles of poverty by providing low-income, single moms with the services and support they need to graduate from high school, technical school, or college in a county that historically shows high teen pregnancy rates.
Cheyanne, who will graduate from Bowsher High School on May 29, will study at Lourdes University.
To Executive Director Christina Rodriguez, each graduation cap stands for a brighter future.
“This is one more family that has a fighting chance,” she said. “One more family that’s going to get off the welfare system and be able to produce.”
Ms. Rodriguez believes that intervention today will have an impact 10 years down the line, when the toddlers reach their mothers’ age — “when they’re not dropping out of high school, when they’re not in a gang, when they’re not behind a gun,” she said.
Start High School and Mom's House graduate Reginae Jones, with her son Rylin, is greeted by program director Julie Haas.
Bright-eyed and self-assured, Reginae Jones, 18, said she never doubted she would graduate. She knew she was smart, and she had a strong support system.
“I knew I could do it,” the soon-to-be graduate of Start High School said, her son swinging on her arm.
But not everyone felt so confident right away. Rosalyn Wickum, 22, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Toledo on May 5, was a college sophomore applying to study abroad in Ghana when she found out she was pregnant.
“I was really scared,” Rosalyn said. “I knew I was going to keep going to school, but I didn’t know what the struggle would be.”
She wasn’t sure it would be possible to be a good mother and a good student at the same time.
“I thought I’d be mediocre [in school] from then on,” she said.
But after giving birth and enrolling her daughter at Mom’s House a month later, her grades improved. Next year, Rosalyn will head to Bowling Green State University on a full scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in communications.
Kathy Sharp, 20, who graduated from Polly Fox Academy, a school for young mothers in grades 7-12, on Tuesday, said she was grateful to Mom’s House for helping her re-enroll in school after she dropped out.
“To get here to graduate, I didn’t think I was going to see it,” Kathy told onlookers in a brief speech. “I’m going to cry. ... You guys made me feel safe and made me feel like Mikey was safe, too. Thank you.”
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