What We do
We mentor cohorts of teen mothers.
Only about 40% of teen moms finish high school, so to improve their college graduation rates, we need to intervene early. We work with partner schools throughout LAUSD and with an innovative and highly successful charter school in the Rampart District of Los Angeles called the New Village Girls Academy. We also partner with a number of nonprofits that address the immediate needs of pregnant and parenting teens.
While there are many terrific nonprofits in Los Angeles serving the needs of teens with children — St. Anne's Maternity Home and Alliance of Moms, to name just two — there are no organizations dedicated exclusively to putting teen mothers into college and ensuring that they graduate. That's where we step in. Our focus is on education, and we have many years of experience putting inner-city high school students into college through other organizations.
But putting teen mothers into universities is different from the work we've long done with first-generation college students. Young women with children need much more in the way of mentoring and support services. That's why our program starts in high school and runs all the way through undergrad. The challenges that young parents face are simply too great to handle alone. Only when she has completed her education and is working in a professional capacity can a single mother be expected to support her family adequately and move forward in her career.
As soon as we have contact with a pregnant or parenting teen, we work to assure her that she can attend college with her child. The reason why 60% of teen mothers fail to complete high school isn't because they no longer want to pursue an education, it's because they see it as an impossible goal. We change that.
We bring in mentors, some of whom are themselves single mothers in college, and we explain the resources they use to attend classes full time. We even share the budgets of our current college moms, showing where their grant money comes from and where it's spent. These budgets illustrate conclusively that even with no significant personal income, single mothers can attend college as long as they're informed about how to receive the resources they'll need. This is a dramatic game-changer for most of the teens we work with.
We have a three-layer mentoring structure that involves professional women from a wide range of industries, women in graduate school, and young mothers in college. Over years of experience putting inner-city teens into college, we've found that this multi-tier structure works well.
The core of our mentoring network consists of women who are currently grad students in leading business schools. Because the College Moms Project grew out of a community of MBA students, we're well connected at top schools and we're confident that the women leading our mentoring teams are exceptionally capable. We tap into existing community service initiatives at business schools, providing participants with a way to serve young mothers in a meaningful way.
Our MBA student leadership teams coordinate all mentoring activities and recruit the professional women and undergraduate moms who are part of each mentoring unit. This volunteer structure allows us to generate a tremendous amount of leverage on the assets we employ.
Once in College
While our mentoring begins in high school, it continues into community college and four-year universities. This is where our university-based mentoring teams are most effective. They help our young mothers secure resources ranging from campus childcare to university housing. And the mentors leading that process are themselves current students who are informed about the system.