Motherhood can be one of the most wonderful and fulfilling journeys a woman can embark on, but it can come with many challenges, especially when you are a single mother at a young age. At times, you feel scared and isolated – like the weight of the world is on your shoulders – and you have nowhere to turn. Such was the case when I became pregnant with my son at the age of 19. Despite this chaotic time in my life, I was determined not to allow a teenage pregnancy to define me. However, I was uncertain how to balance being a new mom, attending Texas Southern University, marching in the Ocean of Soul band, and working. I needed a strong support system. That’s when I learned about Project Row Houses’ Young Mothers Residential Program (YMRP).
YMRP empowers young single mothers and their children in achieving independent, self-sufficient lives. Since 1996, YMRP has supported hundreds of mothers and their families, some of whom have gone on to earn doctorates, law degrees and become community leaders and entrepreneurs. Through this program, PRH provides a culturally rich environment in which residents develop healthy, holistic living practices and cultivate a sense of positive energy and self-worth that will guide them in becoming empowered, self-confident, nurturing women, mothers, daughters, companions, and employees.
YMRP afforded me a strong support system, which is something that all young, single moms should have access to, but unfortunately, not enough do. I do not know what I would have done without the constant support of my program mentors and my fellow moms. We forged a special bond and a real sisterhood. We laughed together, cried together, made dinners together, and our children played together. To this day, some of my closest friends are the women I met through the program.
Dawn Jones, a current mom in the program, echoed how special it has been for her to be supported by the other young moms in her cohort. Before YMRP, she felt like she was the only one going through certain situations, but since starting the program in January, she quickly realized that so many young moms face similar obstacles and triumphs and that the program allows them the space to regroup and celebrate together.
Through the workshops and classes that Dawn is attending, she has learned not only how to improve her parenting skills but also how to persevere as she continues to achieve her professional and personal goals. She specifically credits the Black Parenting class that she has been in for the past two months in changing her perspective on parenting. Importantly, she is practicing feeling less guilty about having to go to work and school. She understands that although she is sacrificing spending time with her son, in the end, she is doing her best to provide the safe, happy, and healthy life they deserve.
Dawn is currently pursuing a degree from Texas Southern University. She also has her own blog, is involved with the NAACP NextGEN and the Honor Society of Leadership and Success, and works as a lead field organizer.
Yvette Chapman was 26-years-old when she and her then 5-year-old daughter were in the program. She is now a teacher for gifted and talented students in Spring ISD and is a visual artist as well. She was HHBSE Teach of the Year- Houston Chapter. She completed her Masters of Education in school counseling and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Counseling Education. For her, the support and encouragement she felt while in the program still guides her parenting approach. Through the program, she learned to embrace the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child.” As single mothers, we can often feel like it is our responsibility to take care of our children on our own and it can be hard for us to ask for help. YMRP gives us a safe space to practice asking for help. Although Yvette’s daughter is now a teenager, she still utilizes the skills she learned about how to seek advice and help from others. She is not afraid to reach out to other parents and ask how they have dealt with similar situations.
In addition to the emotional support that I received from my cohort, the program also provided housing and counseling. My experience with YMRP truly changed the trajectory of my life. My son and I were nurtured in a loving community and exposed to arts and culture like never before - from the Black Parenting classes taught by Dr. Nelda Lewis to my home - my little house on Holman Street. I can still remember my mentor mom, Ms. Yvonne Morales, taking me to Target to go shopping for my house. I gained a level of knowledge about myself and my capabilities that I had not explored in the past.
Although I graduated from YMRP many years ago, the program, PRH, and the Third Ward community – the very same community that enveloped me in love, strength, and support – will always have a special place in my heart. As soon as I earned my graduate degree and moved back to Houston, I knew I wanted to be involved with the YMRP so I joined the advisory committee. From there, I was asked to be a mentor mom.
When the Director of Advancement position became open, PRH wanted to bring me on as a full-time team member. Without hesitation, I joined the organization that has changed so many lives, including my own. Through my role, I am excited to help support YMRP and touch the lives of many more young single moms and their children just like Dr. Lewis and Ms. Yvonne impacted mine.
In honor of Mother's Day, I encourage you to consider giving a gift on behalf of YMRP and the women and children we serve.
Sincerely, Shannette Prince
Young Mothers Residential Program Graduate
PRH Director of Advancement