Hi, my name is Leslie. I want you to all do me a favor. Imagine me… a 17- year-old girl attending Bridger Alternative High School in Bozeman, Montana. I am having an extremely difficult time balancing school, working 30 hours a week at a job, trying to hold onto a damaged relationship with my boyfriend, and most importantly, trying to care for the most amazing gift ever: my beautiful baby girl Aaliyah Ambitious.
Although I always knew I wanted children, now at just 17 was not the ideal time. I remember feeling lost, confused, and an overload of love and commitment to do better for my daughter. I also remember that I was determined not to let this unplanned teen pregnancy be the end of my story. But despite my determination and love for my daughter, the emotion that I recall the most from this period in my life was fear. At the time my parents were not available for support and I was living in a friend’s basement with several other teenagers. Although I had amazing teachers at school and a very close friend in my corner, every day I feared that I would somehow fail my daughter and my duties as a mother. My life was on a very uncertain path and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Now take a second to imagine my life with Thrive. I was referred to The Partnership Project, a signature program of Thrive, and my life’s course began to change. This was one of the most important turning points in my life! On the first day that I met with my Thrive family support worker Jamie, I was asked to make three life goals. they were:
#1. Finding a new job
# 2. Getting a home for my daughter, my boyfriend, and I.
#3. Buying a Car.
At this time I had no idea the power behind writing and setting goals. Every day I would wake up and think about how I could work towards accomplishing them. Jamie would meet with me and check on my progress. Within 3 months of being involved with Thrive I had achieved my goals:
I began working for a new business that had hours which aligned with my daughter’s daycare schedule. Thrive helped me find high quality daycare for Aaliyah so I could go to work and not worry if she was being taken care of properly. Thrive helped me find and move into my own place which was a much happier and healthier environment for my family. They showed me how to apply for housing and walked me through the whole process.
At every meeting my Thrive family support worker would provide me with parenting magazines, information on signing up for parenting classes, and ensure me that my baby was developing at a healthy rate. With the support and encouragement Thrive gave me I began to see myself differently. After successfully achieving my first three goals, I had
The confidence to aim higher. With the resources, support, and guidance from Thrive’s Partnership Program I was able to go on and accomplish even more than I had ever imagined: In June of that year, I graduated from Bridger Alternative High School and applied to Montana State University. This was huge. I was and am the only person in my family to attend college, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
Nevertheless, I knew I that Aaliyah and I still had a long road ahead of us. Thankfully, Thrive was there every step of the way.Along with providing me with support with my parenting, career, and educational needs,Thrive was also available to support me and my family financially when I had nowhere
else to turn. Although my boyfriend and I both had jobs, occasionally we would need assistance. Thrive gave us:
– Gas vouchers
– Daycare co payments
– Grocery vouchers
– and (Oh yes!) And Diapers!
These things may not seem like much to you but, at that time, they were life savers. This support helped us stay on the positive track we were on. Getting these basic needs from Thrive helped us focus on the important big picture things like parenting our daughter Aaliyah. And although I would exhaust all other options before breaking down and admitting that I needed help with taking care of my baby, Carrie, the Partnership Manager never once hesitated to help us with anything we needed.
One time, I remember tearing up when I was asking Carrie for help with some of these things. I told her “thank you so much for everything that you and Thrive and all of the sponsors have done for me and my family. I hope someday I can pay you back for everything. She looked me straight in the eye and said,
“You can. You can invite me to your college graduation.”
Well Carrie, Thrive, and everyone else who has helped make this organization what it istoday, I have good news. Today as I stand here telling my story, I would like to personally invite you to watch me and my peers graduate from Montana State University on Saturday May 9th at 9 a.m.
I couldn’t have done this without all of your support. To those of you who are now in the position that I was in years ago, I want you to know that just because you have a child when you are young, it does not mean that your life story has to end. In fact, you now have a challenging new beginning to an even more amazing life story than before!!
I am so thankful for all the support we received along the way. Thank you to my amazing smart, beautiful, caring, and talented daughter Aaliyah who I consider my co-pilot. From the beginning she has been my main source of motivation.
Finally, thank you to everyone in this room who has given to Thrive and thereby given me and every young parent like me the resources, support, and confidence to succeed in life. Thank you for believing in me, and for believing in the future of my daughter.Thanks to you, Aaliyah has a college-educated parent, a safe home to live in, and a wonderful start to her education. Because of you, her future is so much brighter. Imagine that impact on over 8,000 children and families each year. Your support is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Supporting Thrive means that everyone in our community succeeds.