Editor’s Note: Bridgette McNulty is a faculty member at Riverview High School’s Cyesis Teen Parent Program and a Mind in the Making facilitator. Riverview High School’s Cyesis Teen Parent Program offers prenatal, Lamaze, parenting classes, on-site childcare, and the ability to choose from traditional classes or a variety of online courses. Additionally, it offers a strong academic program focusing on skill development, parenting education, and meeting credit and assessment requirements for graduation. Students are provided with assistance and counseling in educational and career opportunities, enabling them to leave high school with options and plans for continued success.
Parenting is a challenge given the best of circumstances. Now imagine what it would be like if you’re homeless, 16 years old and struggling in school. This is not far from the truth for many of my girls. We know when it comes to parenting in real time, we often hit the default button — we parent the way we were parented. Often we remember saying to ourselves, “I will never do that with my child.”
How do we change the patterns that have become a part of us? I wish I could wave a magic wand and solve all my girl’s challenges, but life doesn’t work that way.
Recently, we embarked on a journey together exploring ways to change those patterns, reflect on our actions as parents and caregivers, and do the best for our children. This journey was made possible by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and The Patterson Foundation supporting 50 local individuals to learn to be Mind in the Making facilitators. I went through the training earlier this year and joined with another facilitator, April Glasco, to bring our learnings to the girls. Bumpy as it may be when the room is filled with teenage girls at lunchtime catching up on the social scene and sharing pictures of their babies, April and I shared the information in the Mind in the Making modules. At times, I felt as if I was fighting a losing battle, probably a familiar feeling for the girls in the room. But, then there were the glorious moments when the discussion was so engaging we never heard the bell that ended our session. April and I would glance at each other, lock eyes, and smile.
I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have an arsenal of information and a vehicle in which to share a ride toward change. This first cohort of Mind in the Making is a beginning for me to share my passion and love with other parents and caregivers for a brighter future. Life is messy and imperfect, but also beautiful, surprising, and joyous. The look of hope in my girl’s eyes during one of our sessions will keep me fueled to continue challenging myself to improve and grow.