A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gena Bigler: Nonprofit helps single mothers dare to dream by taking them Step By Step


Many of the young mothers at Step By Step expressed an interest in exercise, so the organization partnered with Immanuel Baptist in Lexington for its Zumba classes. The church provides free childcare with the moms exercise. "Tonight, a few of us got our picture taken with our instructor, Kelly. I am so proud of these moms!" wrote program director Tanya Torp. (Photo from Step By Step)

Many of the young mothers at Step By Step expressed an interest in exercise, so the organization partnered with Immanuel Baptist in Lexington for its Zumba classes. The church provides free childcare with the moms exercise. “Tonight, a few of us got our picture taken with our instructor, Kelly. I am so proud of these moms!” wrote program director Tanya Torp. (Photo from Step By Step)

 
Dare to dream.
 
That powerful statement is one of the building blocks of success at Step by Step. The 19-year-old faith-based nonprofit helps young single mothers in a number of ways.
 
One of the most extraordinary is guiding the young women through Dare to Dream sessions where they explore their possibilities by dreaming big and then setting goals for themselves in five aspects of their lives – physical, education, parenting, housing and spiritual. Most people could benefit from Dare to Dream sessions, but reminding young mothers who likely feel alone and overwhelmed that they can dream and achieve those dreams is remarkable.
 
In Kentucky, 37 percent of children live in a one-parent home, slightly higher than the national average. Over 25 percent of children living in Kentucky live in poverty and 22.4 percent of Kentucky children suffer from food insecurity. By lifting these young mothers up and helping them achieve personal success, Step by Step is helping provide a brighter future for the children of the moms brave enough to participate in the program.
 
It takes courage to dream, to set goals and work toward them. Step by Step supports moms while they find their own way. By helping them focus on goals in five different areas of their lives, they achieve success in several areas at different times; each success builds on the one before and each step of the way, program director Tanya Torp is there beside them.
 
Step by Step provides more than Dare to Dream sessions; it also provides mentoring, workshops and support groups, crisis intervention, and referrals to other resources when needed. There are also programs for the children and a Mama’s Hideout where moms can visit during the week and get support or guidance when they need it.
 
Kentucky ranks seventh in the number of teen pregnancies per capita in the United States. According to data from numerous sources, only 2 percent of mothers who give birth before reaching age 18 finish college by age 30 and only 51 percent of teen mothers earn their high school diploma. These are national numbers.
 
Kentucky also ranks fourth for poverty in the nation. The correlation between lack of educational achievement and poverty is well-documented. Without intervention, these mothers and their children are almost certainly facing a life of poverty.
 
Every service Step by Step provides impacts at least two lives. Twice a month, moms and their children get together to share a meal and then enjoy separate programs. Moms may learn about budgeting, how to shine in a job interview or pick up some parenting tips.
 
Even more than the practical living seminars, the young women find support to help them stay in school or go back to school. They have someone who will support their dreams and help them find the resources they need to achieve them.
 
Even under the best circumstances, motherhood can be challenging. Learning to be a parent while you are still learning to be an adult adds a serious level of complexity. Thanks to Step by Step, young women in the Bluegrass have some help navigating the complicated path before them. Mom by mom, Step by Step is impacting the future of our neighbors. As their sign says: “Mentoring teen moms, transforming lives for generations.”
 

 
 

Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at lgbigler@gmail.com.

 

Click here to read more columns from Gena Bigler.


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