My Turn, Deja Garlin: One little engine keeps Families First going

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

By Deja Garlin

“All aboard the TPPI express,” yells the conductor as the Rowan community boards take their seats.

Excitement fills the air as the train takes off on the tracks. There are stage coaches filled with families, smiling faces of all ages, but there is a section dedicated to a group of unique people, young and talented, with more responsibility than the typical person in their class.

They are teen parents.

For 20-plus years, Families First N.C. train has supported teen parents with our teen pregnancy program. We serve teen  parents in Rowan County who are pregnant or parenting, enrolled in school or a GED program and 19 and under. We have served hundreds of teens and their children on their parenting journey by offering evidence-based model teachings, meeting basic needs, informing them of healthy lifestyle behaviors, exploring the dangers of substance use and increasing mental health awareness. 

This train just keeps going and going, but at one point on its journey it needed a little help.

Similar to the American folktale about the little engine that could, the Families First train was a stranded train unable to find  an engine willing to take it over a difficult terrain to its destination. Engines came in the form of letters from various funders saying, “Unfortunately at this time” or “Due to unforeseen.” One would think the  large locomotive known for supporting and educating families with its foundation built on adolescent parenting would have many engines aiding in its success over steep mountains, but it all came down  to one little engine, an engine small in size but powerful in its efforts with remarkable results. Only the little engine is willing to try in this folktale, and it repeats the mantra that rings true to this day, “I think I can.” 

The United Way is our little engine that keeps us moving over those difficult mountains. The United Way needs us Rowan!

They need us to give generously to their campaign, support their causes and efforts because what they do for our community helps us in a major way.

When our community can come together and inspire one another to give their time, money and talents to go to our community needs, then those resources ultimately flow to our neighbors in need and create a thriving community  for everyone. And as we celebrate their 61st birthday, we want to continue our partnership and offer  support when needed. Thank you United Way, for being our engine.  

Deja Garlin is Teen Parenting Prevention Initiatives coordinator for Families First N.C.