Youth for Christ: Teen moms in Tuscaloosa
Teen Moms is a program under Youth for Christ that tends to young mothers working toward a high school diploma.
By Katherine Risk
TUSCALOOSA — Being a high school student can be difficult, especially if that student is also caring for a little one at home.
Teen Moms is a program under Youth for Christ that tends to young mothers working toward a high school diploma. Sarah Segars, director of Teen Moms, graduated from The University of Alabama in December and took the director position in January. According to Segars and Campus Life director at Central High School Romel Gibson, the goal of Teen Moms is to build relationships with the girls who need guidance through a difficult time in their lives.
According to Segars, Teen Moms is in three high schools in Tuscaloosa County: Northridge, Central and Tuscaloosa County. Within the three schools, there are 44 girls, that YFC knows of, who have children or are pregnant. Segars travels to each high school every other week for an optional class where the girls can all meet together with Segars and one guidance counselor.
“I also do things during the week, where they can come hang out and we can just talk and kind of get to know each other. We’re very relational,” Segars said. “They’ll call sometimes, just to talk, not necessarily about their child, [if there is] something going on in their life and they just need an ear, someone to listen to.”
Segars said getting to know the girls is the most rewarding part of her job.
“Most people push them aside and they look down on them. They still need love, they still need support,” Segars said. “They definitely need support right now. They’re mothers in high school, and that is so hard. So just getting to know them and getting to just be their friend is really what I’m basically there for, not just to teach.”
When Segars goes to Northridge High School for the Teen Moms class, Lauren Nieman, a junior guidance counselor, is there to help.
“I volunteered. Being a new mom, I felt like I could relate with them, rather than them having a male sponsor or having a sponsor that doesn’t have kids, it’s a little bit harder to understand,” Nieman said.
According to Nieman, four out of the nine teen moms at NHS attend the Tuesday morning meetings regularly and about seven of the girls meet with Nieman on a regular basis to talk. Gibson agrees that having a family helps relate to the young parents. Along with Campus Life at Central, Gibson also helps with Teen Moms when he can. Since Central has a Campus Life and Teen Moms presence, Gibson has periodically tended to both programs over the five years as director.
“Most teenagers, I would say, are not necessarily as equipped as they should be with things pertaining to parenting,” Gibson said. “In many ways, they’re still kids themselves, so they learn ways in which they could be better parents. But in addition to that, I like the fact that it’s an outlet where they can share their own frustrations and learn and hear about ours, and back and forth do life together.”
Gibson shared his own experience about growing up with a brother who was a teen dad at the age of 15.
“He didn’t really have any other teen dads to connect to because where we grew up, there was no teen parents program or nothing like Youth for Christ there,” Gibson said. “I believe things would have gone a little differently if he had maybe a support system with people who really understood what he was going through. And with us, here at Youth for Christ, I think that’s a positive thing for them that they have camaraderie and somebody else beyond the four walls of school, as well.”
Together, Segars and Gibson try to help the young parents in Tuscaloosa. From getting diapers and baby food to lending an ear in times of need, Youth for Christ Teen Moms program is there for anyone looking for support.