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Good Beginnings honors high school graduates

Good Beginnings celebrates
program’s high school Graduates
By John D. Gerstenmier
Special to the Salisbury Post
The Stanback Room at the Rowan Public Library was filled with lively conversation and punctuated with the happy cries of many young children as the Good Beginnings for Teen Parents program recognized their high school graduates for 2011 on Wednesday.
Good Beginnings is funded through Smart Start Rowan and administered through a contract with the Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council (AFEC). AFEC staff mentors meet with teen parents in public school settings and in their homes.
A total of 41 teen parents representing all of the high schools in the Rowan Salisbury Schools System, together with their little ones and many proud family members and supportive friends, gathered to celebrate an achievement which will enable them to provide for their young families in the years ahead.
Three young students — JaNece Grier, Yareli Luna and Jessie Gibson — were selected to speak. They shared their personal stories as moving testimonies to the effectiveness and importance of the GBTP program.
The dedication and commitment of the two mentors, Desmonda Garnett and Enid Rodriguez, were highly praised. Each of these new mothers explained the many barriers to completing their education which they had overcome with the support of GBTP.
Even more notable, these young women have maintained high academic grades and won scholarships which will assist them in continuing their education in post high school settings!
There were 41 “success stories” in the room on this day! These young parents are not looking back at past choices, but looking forward instead. They have been encouraged and empowered to walk forward, knowing that through effort and work they can succeed in attaining their goals and providing for their families!
They will become active members of our workforce and contributing citizens in our community. Some already are, as we heard from one young mom who is locally employed full-time as a certified nursing assistant.
Good Beginnings for Teen Parents is a wonderful example of the expression, “it takes a village.” In this case, the Good Beginnings program involves many local organizations and individuals: AFEC, Smart Start Rowan, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, the United Way and all the many volunteer leaders on their boards who help sustain the vision and the program.
I hope that each board member might feel the same satisfaction that I experienced sitting and applauding these graduates at lunch.
Do not think of Good Beginnings for Teen Parents as just another program. It is so much more. On this particular day, it represented 41 young adult lives empowered and renewed with encouragement, hopes and joys restored!
I am sincerely blessed to be a part of the village.
• • •
The Rev. John D. Gerstenmier is executive director of Smart Start Rowan.

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