Mother Courage

May 11, 2012


Mother Courage

Our Support for Programs that Keep Young Mothers in School and Focused on Their Future

As many Brooklyn moms find themselves waking up to breakfast in bed this Sunday, our thoughts turn to those moms who aren’t as lucky—the young single mothers and pregnant teens who wake up each morning alone, unsupported, and with few options—and how we can make life better for them and for their children.

Young women growing up in Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods face a relentless slew of challenges and pressures, which too often over time win-out over the hopes and dreams they had as girls. Whereas once they might have planned for college and a career, for many young women in our borough, their future seems swiftly decided by the results of a pregnancy test.

Yet it’s our goal that the result is not what’s expected—dropping out of school, reliance on welfare—but instead with support and resources, they become strong mothers as well as successful women, who contribute to their communities and break the cycle of poverty perpetuated by teen pregnancy.  

Through our Education and Youth Achievement Fund, we’re determined to see that young motherhood does not prevent educational attainment for Brooklyn women, or their children. Two of our grantee partners in the fund are demonstrating how, by taking away the stigma and excuses of teen pregnancy and replacing them with educational and emotional support, rigor, and guidance, there’s no stopping teen moms from being everything they hoped to be.

  • The Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective was founded in 2004 by Benita Miller, a former children’s attorney in Brooklyn Family Court, to assist low income girls of color from Central Brooklyn, where the teen birthrate is over 100 per 1000. BYMC has evolved into a highly personalized program that teaches teen mothers about pregnancy, parenting, and reproduction, as well as promoting high school completion, college access, and community activism—making them better parents and role models.  

    BYMC works with hundreds of young women ages 12 to 21. Member Sheena (pictured at right) joined during her junior year of high school after discovering she was pregnant. No one in her immediate family had completed high school or maintained stable employment.  With BYMC’s support, she has become the first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. Sheena plans on a career in education, hopefully as a kindergarten teacher. Currently, she’s a dedicated BYMC employee during the school year and a dedicated mom year-round.

    “The Brooklyn Community Foundation was an early and critical funder of BYMC,” says BYMC Executive Director Benita Miller. “Their investment and trust in me as a leader helped to establish the City's only single stop support and advocacy organization for young parents. I am proud of the partnership BYMC has with BCF!”

In the same Central Brooklyn neighborhoods where BYMC is working with pregnant teens and new moms, the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society is partnering with parents of preschoolers to make education a family value—to ensure that no matter their start in life, their children are excited about learning and prepared to succeed.  

  • Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, founded in 1891, is one of Brooklyn’s oldest community-based organizations. Working in partnership with parents at five public housing developments in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Crown Heights, BKS helps ensure that children ages 2 to 5 develop a rich educational foundation pre-kindergarten, thereby greatly increasing their chance at academic success later on.

    Through their “open door” policy, BKS’s team of directors, teachers, and social workers invites young mothers (and dads) to volunteer in the classroom, go on field trips, and participate in activities both in and outside of the classroom—to build the importance of education for the entire family.

    Every year, Earth Day at BKS brings a flurry of planting and lessons about nature. This April, at the BKS Sumner Children’s Center in Bed-Stuy, more than 20 mothers joined in to launch the “backyard” garden (pictured above) by planting tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, and lettuce. Moms were able to help their children see first-hand where food comes from and how it grows—and they’ll look forward to enjoying the garden’s harvest throughout the late spring and summer.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we invite you to join us in making a gift to Brooklyn’s young mothers.

Your gift will help thousands of young women and their children achieve the unexpected: a better future for themselves, and a stronger community for all of Brooklyn.


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