From teen mother to role model

Jaqueline Cervantes is a City Heights resident and staff member at Teen Options

I am a 23-year-old City Heights mother with two adorable children, ages 6 and 3, and a student at the University of Phoenix pursuing a bachelor of science degree in human services. Having gotten pregnant at 16 and then again at 19, I could have easily become a negative statistic. Fortunately, with support from dedicated teachers and mentors at Hoover High School and assistance from organizations such as San Diego Youth Services, my life has been turned around. I now work at San Diego Youth Services’ Teen Options program, which provides support services to pregnant teenagers and young parents.

I want teen moms out there to know that help is available, and that completing programs like Teen Options can really make a difference. They can take advantage of a variety of resources, such as parenting and independent living skills classes, to learn how to make the right choices and give the best to their children. I once felt oppressed too, so I know the feeling that some teen moms have against people who are trying to help them. I am where I am now because I accepted the referrals and resources through school.

By participating in the Proud Parenting program through San Diego Youth Services, I learned how to raise a healthy family. More importantly, the program gave me the opportunity to interact with other teen moms. Being able to share feelings and experiences with peers made me feel better about myself and my son’s future. Proud Parenting was also fun. The program offered outings and events, such as Mother’s Day breakfast and Christmas celebrations.

I went through Proud Parenting twice. The second time I was mandated to participate in it because of a referral from Child Protective Services. I may not have been born a perfect parent, but I did learn to become better.

The second time around, I took advantage of another Teen Options program called Aftercare. It led me to dig deeper within myself and examine why I was in the position I was in. I was breaking down due to stress, anxiety and other feelings. This program fostered independent living skills and referred me to services to further my education and my son’s education. Even to this date, I have the binder I created when I was participating in the program. I look through it whenever I feel sad or confused about what path to take.

Thanks to the program, I finished high school in February 2006 and graduated from the program in March 2006. Completing the program was a new beginning for my family. It meant that I was ready to take on the challenges of life. I got a job through the program site as a youth leader and began to build job skills.

Through Teen Options I gained the confidence that I am capable of anything if I put my mind to it. I began taking classes at San Diego City College and applied for childcare through the college’s Child Development Center. When I turned 19, I got pregnant with my second child and gave birth to a beautiful girl. Even so, I continued with my college education while holding down a job or two and yet still managed to earn enough credits to transfer to the University of Phoenix. Upon starting the field experience course in my B.A. program, I immediately thought of working for Teen Options as a way to give back.

My hard work and struggles are getting rewarded little by little, and I know that much more is to come. My son has now completed kindergarten, and my daughter is starting her first year of preschool. My success is just beginning.

Jaqueline Cervantes is a City Heights resident and staff member at Teen Options located on Fairmount Avenue. Administered by San Diego Youth Services, Teen Options provides support services to pregnant and parenting teens and young adults, ages 12 through 25.