Jillian had just entered high school when she learned that she was going to be a mother. At 14, she was overwhelmed at the idea of being a single parent.
She told herself, “I’m going to stay in school. I’m going to get this done.” She attended classes for a few months, but a complicated pregnancy and unstable living situation made it nearly impossible to focus on her studies. Like so many teen parents, she had to drop out to care for herself and her child.
Her son, Kaiden, was born prematurely. The doctors warned Jillian that he may not survive. He had a feeding tube and required a lot of attention, making it even more difficult for Jillian to plan for their future.
One month after Kaiden’s birth, his health had stabilized and Jillian returned to school. It was hard for her to focus while away from her baby, and she would often leave in the middle of the day to be with him.
It was during her sophomore year that Jillian, now 15 and mother of a three-month-old, found out she was pregnant again. Nine months and another difficult pregnancy later, she gave birth to her second son, Khail. They all moved in with Khail’s father and Jillian once again attempted a return to school.
She endured emotional abuse and battled depression and anxiety, both at home and in the classroom. Now with two children under the age of two and another father who wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities, she was again forced to drop out in what would have been her junior year.
“With two of them so close in age, not having much help, and not having anyone to watch them, I didn’t have time for school,” said Jillian. Soon after, a 16-year-old Jillian packed up her boys and moved back in with her parents.
For the next two years, Jillian bounced from job to job. She wanted to provide for her children and didn’t want any help from the boys’ fathers, but the demands of working and parenting were difficult. Without a driver’s license, transportation was always an obstacle. Her parents helped when they could, but were adamant that Jillian return to school and earn her GED.
Determined to find a solution, Jillian filed for daycare assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program; a service helping low-income families with children meet basic needs, while helping parents move to financial stability. She was referred to the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Association (a partner of A Chance To Grow) where she learned about the 4-star Parent Aware rated Turnquist Child Enrichment Center.
After touring the center and learning about ACTG’s Teen Parent and Transportation program, Jillian, now 19, was excited for the opportunity to return to school. She would finally be able to focus on her education with the peace of mind that her children would be cared for in a safe and accredited childcare center.
“I started at Minneapolis Community Technical College last September and my boys started at Turnquist the same day! It’s made my life easier,” she said, “I’m improving myself and making sure I can build a good future for them.”
Her boys love the program, too. Prior to Turnquist, Khail had difficulty socializing with other children and had attachment issues. Now, nearly a year later, he has lots of friends and looks forward to going to school, in part to the S.M.A.R.T. approach (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training) practiced at the center.
“Turnquist’s staff genuinely love the kids and the children love their teachers,” she said. “They also have helpful resources to us younger parents. Other schools don’t care to help out the family as a unit like Turnquist.”
With her children being cared for and her home life stabilizing, Jillian was able to focus on her education and on April 17, 2018, she earned her GED. Shortly thereafter, she participated in an internship program at Hennepin County Medical Center and is now exploring courses to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Medical Management, where she hopes to begin a career as a nursing assistant and cosmetologist.
“This program has helped me improve my life by allowing me to go back to school, graduate, get a good internship opportunity, and help me do what I need to while knowing my children are safe and being taken care of,” she said. “Turnquist and ACTG’s Teen Parent Program provides comfort to my kids and to me. It’s their second home where they know they’re safe and loved.”