Raising two boys under harsh circumstances was only possible with the help of her sisters.--This is Marlene's story.
The Up and Down Journey of Motherhood: Let's Lift As They Climb
By MARLENE SHANCHEZ, Executive Director, The Center for Young Women's Development
I had my first child at nineteen and I still don’t know how I made it. I worked two jobs, with the first one starting at five in the morning and the second one finishing at nine at night. I couldn’t afford full-time childcare, so I moved my son Danny between two part-time centers that weren’t as good as I hoped for but better than I could afford.
One of my most vivid memories from that time was going down to an alley in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco to buy my formula. Because I had two jobs, I didn’t qualify for WIC, and because I worked so much, I wasn’t around enough to breastfeed my baby. A can of formula at my local Safeway was $24, which it took me about 4 hours to earn. Instead, I would go to this little spot downtown that sold the formula for half price. I don’t know where they were getting it, but it was the real stuff and thankfully, despite the many stresses in our lives, Danny was a happy baby and thrived.
What got me through that time were the other young, single moms I knew; we took care of each other in so many ways. We would watch each other's kids, and I never came back from the alley with just one can of formula. We were always teaming up to get things done: grab food and diapers for each other, make dinner, and help our seemingly impossible schedules work somehow.
I am now 31, Daniel will be 12 years old soon and my son Elijah is 4. My life is not as hard, but it still isn’t easy. Rent eats half of my salary and I still can’t afford daycare for Elijah, so he spends his days at work with friends, his auntie or grandma. When all that falls through, he comes with me to work. I am the director of the Center for Young Women’s Development where we support young moms like I used to be. We have parenting classes, job training, support groups, programs for incarcerated women and girls, and amazing opportunities for training, learning and becoming leaders.
Many success stories have walked in and out of the doors of the Center. For each one of the women who has worked hard to beat the odds, there are many we work with who continue to scrape by. I know from my own experience and from seeing them hard at work that it isn’t for lack of trying. Piecing it together in this city is hard at any age, but it is almost impossible to get ahead for young families. It often feels like the amazing views, sparkling buildings and thumping nightlife are mocking our foggy existence.
When I was pregnant with Danny I was semi-homeless, sleeping on couches and just getting by, and the strain of those early years feels like yesterday. But back then, in many ways there was more help for young moms like me. WIC, food stamps, and childcare subsidies were easier to come by. And help like that got many of us through. As we continue to face budget cuts that shred the fraying safety net, I truly worry that the mountain out of poverty is getting too steep to climb. That the young women I see coming through the Center are fighting an impossible battle to finish their educations, get jobs, keep the roof over their heads and feed their families.
Just like we have found in the California budget battles, there are no belts left to tighten. That’s true for these young women, who are balancing rent, formula, diapers, books and bus fare. I know from my own story that the hands to lift me as I climbed made the difference between a life of minimum-wage work and what I have now: a truly rewarding and inspiring career and a happy, thriving family.
Full Text: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/05/06/down-journey-motherhood-lets-lift-they-climb
Your contributions supported Sisters Rising, a job training program serving young women pulling themselves and their families out of poverty. Your support has ensured that 17 young women like Marlene have a safe place to learn and thrive. To learn more about this program and other vital services provided by the Center, please visit www.cwyd.org.
Employment AND Training
Sisters Rising provides low-income young women with both a livable income and an environment that is supportive and personally transformative. Young women who have endured multiple traumas including long periods of incarceration, loss of their children while they were in the system, poverty, violence, drug addiction and the incarceration of a parent do not just need a job — they need to believe that they can make it in the "above ground" economy.
The 17 Sisters Rising interns work four hours a day, four days a week — during the hours that have the highest incidence of arrest of female sex workers and drug dealers. Sisters Rising effectively competes with the street economy by providing respectable wages and benefits, job training, child care, peer support, housing assistance and leadership opportunities. The part-time nature of the job and its regular income allow the young women in Sisters Rising to return to or stay in school. Sisters Rising demonstrates to young women and girls from the streets and the juvenile justice system that another way is, in fact, possible!
These young women develop practical workplace and leadership skills, while building their resumes and lists of references. They learn about self-care, healthy lifestyles and sisterhood along with basic computer and writing skills. Our Mock Interview Day is just one example of job training that is practical as well as transformative. Included in this report you will find photos of our most recent Mock Interview Day. Enjoy!
Our mission is to empower and inspire young women who have been involved with the juvenile justice system and/or the underg
In the past year, The Center for Young Women's Development, with your support, achieved the following accomplishments:
- They hired 17 young women for the Sisters Rising 9-month internship. 12 were hired directly out of lock up. 13 graduated from the program in June.
- They provided young women in lock-up with 150 hours of self-advocacy training.
- They provided case management to 50 young women exiting juvenile hall and adult jail.
- They collaborated with local partner Youth Justice Institute to provide 180 hours of onsite Mental Health Therapy to young women in the Sisters Rising program.
- They were award funding from the City and County of San Francisco from The Department of Children, Youth & Families to support their core programming.
- Sisters Rising alumni testified at a Congressional hearing on Girls in the Juvenile Justice System advocating to increase federal funding for gender-specific programing.
These accomplishments would not be possible without your support. Thank you!
Of the 17 young women in Sisters Rising 14 are on track to graduate from the internship at the end of June 2010. Of the 14, 5 completed their probation, 3 graduated from high school, 13 young women self-reported that they now know how to write a cover letter and resume, how to articulate their strengths to a potential employer and how to use the Internet to conduct research and use Microsoft Office programs. Additionally, 14 reported that she now has a close relationship with another female – an outcome that we believe is important to building community through sisterhood. All 17 young women helped plan, facilitate our Annual Know Justice Conference that brought together 250 young people to learn about their rights in the system and connect with community resources.
2009 was filled with successes, challenges and amazing opportunities. Although the economic downturn posed some difficulties, the young women in CYWD’s programs remained committed to their collective and personal journeys of transformation.
Nadiyah Sherref, a graduate of the Sister’s Rising Internship and now CYWD’s youngest board member, testified at the judiciary committee’s congressional hearing on Girls in the Juvenile Justice System: Strategies to Help Girls Achieve Their Full Potential.
Young women from CYWD sat on panels and provided keynotes and workshops on various topics ranging from Young Mothers in the System to Women Led Policy Change in Atlanta, Tennessee, Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
Of the 17 initial Sisters Rising participants, 13 young women graduated from the program. Of those 13 young women, 4 completed their probation and 4 graduated from high school and went on to pursue higher education.
All 17 young women helped plan, facilitate and participated in CYWD’s Know Justice Conference that brought together 250 young people to learn about their rights in the system and connect with community resources.
A Challenge of Note:
Many of CYWD’s corporate job placement partners suffered in the economic downturn. With reorganization, some key contacts were laid off and some companies eliminated their placement programs all together. In response, CYWD is actively cultivating new relationships with local companies. They also provided financial planning workshops to program participants to help young women cope with extended job seeking timelines.
2009 Program Overview:
Job Preparedness Outcomes:
13 set clear educational and vocational goals.
13 reported that they now know how to write a cover letter and resume.
13 reported that they now feel comfortable articulating their strengths to a potential employer.
13 reported that they now know how to use the Internet for research and Microsoft Office programs.
6 were able to gain and sustain meaningful employment and/or engage in an educational or vocational program.
13 reported increased understanding and application of work-ethic accountability.
13 disengaged from the underground street economy, completed probation and did not recidivate.
Health and Wellness Outcomes:
36 reported an increase ability to develop healthy and supportive relationships with their peers.
62 reported an increased understanding of how their health impacts their lives.
5 young mothers gained/retained custody of their children and report creating a healthy environment for their families.
It has been quite a year. We couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you for your support. We look forward to what we can achieve together in 2010.
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Thanks to 203 donors like you, a total of $16,136 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving.
Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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