Over the years I have supported a number of important causes by donating money. I’ve even run a race to raise awareness and money. But for the very first time in my life I am doing much more than writing a check. I have found a cause that speaks to me deeply; that I am passionate about; one that I am jumping into head first and truly believe will allow me to make a major impact on the life of just one person by serving as a mentor.
The organization is called Generation Hope, and I am eager to tell you their story, as well as a very personal story about my Generation Hope scholar, Jocelyn Ramos Bonilla.
Generation Hope is a nonprofit organization that matches sponsors with teen parents who are attending college and are in need of financial and emotional support. Based on the belief that education is vital to success, its aims to give young parents and their children a support system as they pursue academic excellence, to provide a direct-support experience for sponsoring organizations and individuals, and to create a new generation of ambitious and successful families.
Generation Hope began in March 2010 when former teen mother (now an author, speaker, and 2014 CNN Hero!) Nicole Lynn Lewis, decided to start an organization that would help other teen parents earn their college degrees and achieve stable and successful futures. The goal is to create true and effective social change.
For teen parents there are two primary challenges to obtaining a college degree: a lack of financial support, and a lack of emotional support. There is also a social “shaming” of teen parents, which does nothing but hold us back from making advances in issues we care about such as homelessness, hunger, and poverty.
Through its Scholar Program, Generation Hope provides five major services to teen parents who are pursuing college degrees in the DC Metro area:
My relationship with Generation Hope began almost immediately after I heard their founder, Nicole Lynn Lewis, speak at a networking event I was attending. The cause resonated with me deeply for several reasons.
My involvement in Generation Hope stems from a deep desire to somehow "pay it forward." It is my way of saying thank you to my parents for the love, support and guidance they have given me throughout my life. I want to do everything humanly possible to change Jocelyn’s future by giving her the emotional and financial support that she needs to accomplish her goals. As for me, I believe this will be one of the most meaningful and important things I do with my life.
Jocelyn’s family came to the United States from El Salvador about 20 years ago. Her mom was a teen mom, and today she works as a housekeeper and nanny. Her father works in residential construction. Jocelyn has an older sister and brother. Her sister and brother both started college but dropped out. Jocelyn’s sister is also a teen mom.
Jocelyn comes from a loving and supportive family that struggles to make ends meet. They are hardworking, honest people that, like many others living in a similar social and economic environment, have a hard time getting ahead and “breaking the cycle."
Although it certainly wasn’t her plan, Jocelyn got pregnant at the age of 14, and gave birth to twin boys at 15. Her boys were placed in the neonatal intensive care unit, and Jocelyn visited them every day. She was so inspired by the invaluable work and dedication of the neonatal nurses that she saw at the hospital every day, that she decided then and there that she would become one herself. The boys are now three years old and like most young toddlers are very active. Despite having two babies at home, Jocelyn graduated from Gaithersburg High School this past Spring, and just started Montgomery College this Fall.
Jocelyn has a tough road ahead. College courses taken in the evenings after her full-time job. Twin boys that want to spend time with mommy. Studying for exams. Living paycheck to paycheck. But Jocelyn is smart, motivated, and is committed to achieving success and to ensuring a brighter future for herself, those two little boys, and her family. She knows that a college education and a meaningful career as a neonatal nurse will allow her to do just that.
HopeRocks donates 10% of all sales to support Generation Hope. Please visit Generation Hope’s website to learn more about this incredible organization, www.supportgenerationhope.org