Family Focus: Mentoring program helps teenage mothers

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Some teen moms in Charlotte are striving to go beyond just reaching graduation day -- they're trying to become leaders in the community.

The girls are getting help from a unique mentoring program.

Minerva Rubalcaba looks forward to summertime with her 3-year-old daughter, Jackie. She will finally be a high school graduate and have more time with her little girl.

Rubalcaba is graduating late because she became pregnant at 16 and felt she had no choice but to drop out.

“When she was born, it was just too much to take in,” she said. “I didn't know what to do. So I was like, ‘Let me just take care of my baby.’ I was confused.”

Once Rubalcaba had her baby, she knew she had to get her education.

“I had to go back to school because I wanted a better future for my daughter,” she said.

Back at South Mecklenburg High School, she found out Communities in Schools had a program to help teen moms with parenting and graduation. The RISE group empowers the teens with mentoring and leadership classes.

“How to be strong and not to give up, because you give up a lot of times, but you have to keep going,” Rubalcaba said.

She said RISE changed her life by introducing her to her mentor, Jessica.

“Ms. Jessica, she's a great lady,” Rubalcaba said. “She helps me a lot.”

Jessica said from day one, she always saw Rubalcaba’s potential.

“Throughout this whole process, I've always thought that Minerva's just very, very strong,” she said. “You know, she has wonderful grades in school, she (has) a great GPA (and) she's living on her own with her daughter.”

This week, the teens of RISE were honored at a luncheon with their mentors by their side.

Organizer Shawanda Coble said the program is all about giving hope to women who thought they'd lost it all.

“Someone sees that they are a leader. So many times, our teen moms wouldn't even think to apply for a leadership program,” Coble said. “They're not the young ladies that people want to see leading -- but they have the potential, too.”

The RISE group is part of Communities in Schools’ Safe Journey program

If you’d like to be a RISE mentor, contact Judy Sanders-Bull at jsanders-bull@cischarlotte.org.