The residents of Parenting with Purpose, The Night Ministry's housing program for young mothers and their kids, have long benefited from the agency's partnership with the Association House High School, a free, non–traditional education program based in Humboldt Park. The school provides a path to graduation for 16- to 21-year-olds facing educational barriers.
The program's young mothers face competing needs to care for their children, study, and make an income while also experiencing challenges like the high cost of childcare and often mismatched schedules between school, work, and day care. Association House High School has designed their Family Literacy Program to meet these complexities head on while also meeting the social and developmental needs of their children.
"The goal of the Family Literacy Program was to address barriers that our students have," said Jemina Lyle, School Culture & Climate Coordinator at Association House. "The program helps our young parents understand the reality of parenting but also gives them support and it prepares them for the future."
Parenting students can enroll their children aged 6 weeks to 5 years old in on-site childcare and early childhood education while they work towards their degree and even pursue paid internships.
"It's all in the same building, so when they go to school, their kids go with them," said Case Manager LaChania Conwell. "It eliminates the systemic barriers that many young mothers face and helps them not get discouraged when pursuing their education."
Classes are small and the mothers are able to interact with their kids throughout the day. This approach allows them to strengthen their academic learning and parenting skills simultaneously.
"During most of the activities for the kids, the moms are involved. When I was there, they had many reading sessions for us together at the library. Now my daughter actually loves books," said Constance, a former Parenting with Purpose resident who graduated from Association House this year.
Now a college student, she found numerous benefits from her time in the program. "They offer you plenty of resources. I was able to make money through an internship there, go to class, get credits, and do activities with my child. If that's not a helping hand, I don't know what is."
Want to read more stories like this? Be sure to join our email community!