By Jenni Kotting
A discouraging message is being spread by The Candie’s Foundation in an attempt to prevent teen pregnancy as part of its celebrity-based, abstinence-focused ad campaign, ““You’re supposed to be changing the world, not changing diapers...”. These tactics aren’t working for current teen parents or the people who know them.
The reality is that teen parents are changing the world every day - and it’s not just celebrities who also happen to be teen parents. Sure, there are celebrities like LeBron James, Aretha Franklin, and Fantasia Barrino who were teen parents. There are also cultural figures too, like William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, and Ann Dunham –better known as the mother of President Barack Obama. These people challenge the current idea of teen parents made by the Candie’s Foundation. Besides these celebrities, there are lots of unsung heroes – people you’re likely to meet in everyday life who are working just as hard to change the world as teen parents– and are succeeding.
Take a look at some of these teen parents. The ones that haven’t achieved celebrity status. They show that teen parents are capable of doing everything older parents can.
Pamela Seals is a Senior at Simpson Academy in Chicago and has a 14 month old son, Tristen. As part of the Youth Leadership Council at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, she advocates for young parents on how to access the support services they need and educates other young moms on sexual health and healthy relationships.
Monauzre Baugh, or Mo, is 19 years old and graduated from Simeon Academy in Chicago after having a daughter at the age of 17. Since the age of 14, Mo has led various programs and campaigns, leading sexual health, media justice, and young women's empowerment workshops for more than 1000 of her peers. She believes that "teaching doesn't just let me show others how to make better choices about their life and their surroundings, it also helps me make better choices too."
Roxane Medina Padilla is a researcher, activist, and youth facilitator in Chicago who became a young mom before earning her Bachelor’s of Science at Loyola University Chicago. She developed programming for youth in the areas of teen pregnancy prevention, nutrition and fitness, and violence prevention. She has established a health promotion and disease prevention program tailored to the youth in urban communities.
Gloria Malone is a 22 year old Dominican born young woman. She moved around growing up, but now lives in New York City. She has one daughter named Leilani. Currently, she is a full time student at Baruch College studying Public Affairs. Gloria also works for the College, interns at a non-profit organization, and is an entrepreneur blogger at TeenMomNYC.com
Leydi Bautista is 20 years old and from Puebla, Mexico; she grew up in Harlem. She has two gorgeous boys ages 4 and 3, Henry and Josue Hernandez Bautista. Currently, she is in school taking a course in Culinary Arts at Co-Op Tech on East 96th Street. After graduating from high school, Leydi wants to go to college. However, this will be very challenging since she is undocumented. She will continue to fight to achieve her dreams for she and her sons.
These young parents aren’t collecting check or being lazy, or any of the other stigmas that teen parents are shamed with. I am not trying to make being a teen parent look easy, being a teen parent isn’t easy, but then again being a parent is never easy… There are plenty enough obstacles in teen parents’ lives without Candies shaming them for it. Young people deserve to be supported and respected through any experience of pregnancy, not shamed by offensive, corporate ad campaigns seeking to prevent it by any means necessary. Because guess what… it’s possible to change diapers AND the world.
To read about even more young parents who are changing the world and let the Candie’s Foundation know what you think about their insulting ad campaign, sign the petition and join the conversation on Twitter at #NoTeenShame!
Jenni Kotting is the Communications and Community Engagement Specialist for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH). She works with youth and project partners as part of the Sex-Ed Loop media campaign with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Department of Public Health. Jenni has a passion for community organizing, centered around lens of social justice through storytelling.