Generation Hope (www.supportgenerationhope.org) empowers teen parents to complete college by providing scholarships and mentors. To date, 88 scholars have enrolled in the program.
Serves: Metro region
What a donation buys:
• $250 provides gas cards to help 10 scholars attend class for one week.
• $1,000 provides an academic skills training course for 37 scholars.
• $10,000 provides a complete four-year sponsorship for one scholar.
• One day: Serve as a child care volunteer at a scholar training, or help out at Generation Hope’s annual gala or benefit walk.
• Ongoing: Become a volunteer tutor.
Thalia Villatoro, left, and her son, Isael, work with sponsor Shannon Forchheimer.
Helping young parents succeed in college
By Joe Zimmermann
Thalia Villatoro wasn’t about to let motherhood stop her from getting a college education. Her son, Isael, was born when she was 15, but she managed to graduate from high school on time. “Going as far as I can with my education is really important for my future and also for my child,” she says.
Generation Hope has made her college experience easier, says Villatoro, 23, who is studying criminology at the University of Maryland and plans to graduate in 2018. The D.C.-based organization provides financial and emotional support to young parents pursuing their education. “We know it’s not easy to be a student, and it’s not easy to be a parent, and it’s definitely not easy to do both,” says Generation Hope Director of Programming Caroline Griswold Short. “But we believe with the right amount of support they can be successful.”
The organization—whose founder had a baby as a teen before graduating from college with honors—matches applicants to sponsors who provide tuition assistance of $1,200 a year for two-year colleges and $2,400 a year for four-year institutions. There are currently 88 students in the program.
Villatoro says she has often relied on her sponsor and case manager to help her. “When I feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this no more,’ I’ll reach out to them, and they’ll be like, ‘OK, Thalia, what do you need help in, do you need this or that?’ ” she says. Generation Hope also provides workshops for parents that cover topics ranging from raising children to preparing for job interviews.
Villatoro, who lives in D.C. and is also an intern with the Department of Homeland Security, says balancing everything has been less stressful with Generation Hope’s help. She and Isael, who is now in third grade, sometimes do homework at the same time, and she meets with her sponsor, Shannon Forchheimer of Bethesda, about once a month to talk and get advice about her schedule. Forchheimer, who has been Villatoro’s sponsor for two years, says she got involved with Generation Hope because she knows how difficult parenthood can be—she left her job as a lawyer to take care of her three kids. She says young parents shouldn’t lose the potential to further their education just because they are raising children.
“They need that little bit of extra help,” Forchheimer says. “Once they get that, they succeed and flourish, which is obvious with Thalia.”