Student Profile: Thekia Cheeseborough, C'2013,
Develops Program to Help Teen Moms Succeed
Spelman College Social Justice Fellow Thekia Cheeseborough, C’2013, is a Dalai Lama Fellow for the 2012-2013 academic year. The first Spelman student to participate in this program, Cheeseborough, a psychology major, received a $10,000 fellowship to fund a “compassion in action" project to address the eradication of poverty.
Turning Inspiration Into Action
Thekia’s project, B.E.S.T. Moms: Building and Encouraging Success in Teen Moms, was conceived as a result of her belief that a quality education can profoundly alter the lives of persons around the world.
"I wanted to seize the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of teenage girls in my surrounding community by encouraging educational attainment,” said Cheeseborough. “Education is the key that unlocks doors of endless possibilities. As an education advocate, I aim to help those in underserved communities gain access to the necessary resources to expand their opportunities.”
This idea for the project also stemmed from her firsthand experiences of the educational system in Jacksonville, Florida , and through her work as a Social Justice Fellow at Spelman. The Social Justice Fellows Program is a purpose-driven program designed to cultivate Spelman students who desire to engage in social justice advocacy in the 21st century.
Through the Dalai Lama fellowship, Thekia interned at the Southern Education Foundation. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Thekia desires to help students in low-income communities have the opportunity to receive a transformational education. After serving in the classroom, she intends to enroll into an educational psychology doctoral program to research minority student’s experiences in the classroom and how these experiences help or harm their progress.
The B.E.S.T Moms: Building and Encouraging Success in Teen Moms
Content courtesy of Dalailamafellows.org
Location: West End Community, Atlanta, Georgia
After recruiting 12 teenage mothers, with the help of two community-based organizations, B.E.S.T. Moms launched on October 20, 2012. The event marked the beginning of the first of a yearlong series of Saturday workshops. Explore images from that workshop here.
“As an African-American woman, education has become my priority. My education has allowed me to open doors of endless possibilities that many individuals from my community in Jacksonville, Florida, do not have available to them. Additionally, my college experience has been shaped through helping minorities from low-income backgrounds become engaged in higher education; particularly those from the West End community of Atlanta, Georgia, where Spelman College is located.”
The state of Georgia has the 13th highest adolescent birth rate in the United States, and of these teenage mothers only 51% are able to graduate from high school. However, this population is often overlooked when policy is formulated around access to education. Teenage mothers in Georgia drop out of high school in alarming numbers, erasing any chance they might have of attending college and obtaining a degree – an essential element in allowing them to provide adequately in the future for themselves and their children.
B.E.S.T. Moms seeks to improve the quality of life for underserved teenage mothers and their children within the West End community through a series of self-enrichment workshops. These workshops provide mothers with resources to enhance the transferable skills needed to successfully navigate a higher education institution and an exceedingly competitive job market.
B.E.S.T. Moms promotes community interdependence, inspires academic excellence, and encourages volunteerism.
Bi-monthly weekend workshops will be established to address critical skills such as math literacy, and enhancement of reading ability, as well as computer and internet literacy via projects that will create valuable deliverables such as resumes, monthly expense budgets, and an understanding of how to search for and obtain employment opportunities.
In addition, the project will incorporate culturally sensitive contemplative practices to help provide young mothers with a healthy means of coping with and processing the stress of adolescent parenthood. Success will be measured qualitatively through a post-workshop assessment and quantitatively through tracking of how many participants go on to pursue educational opportunities previously viewed as closed to them such as attainment of a GED high school diploma or enrollment in college.