Support means success for teens
VICTORIA Lawrence is a great mum, but she wants to be successful in her own right and someone her daughters look up to.
When Victoria graduated from Mountain Creek High School, she took a gap year to work before completing a Diploma of Fitness.
But when the 23-year-old Caloundra mum fell pregnant with her second daughter, she was eager to get back into study and joined the Supporting Teenage Mothers with Education, Mothering and Mentoring (STEMM) program at the start of last year.
"I tried by myself, but it was difficult with having Bella, at the time she was just over 12 months, and I fell pregnant again," she said.
"It was just a good opportunity to try and do what I wanted to do. So I started my Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) for university and started my Bachelor of Social Work this year.
"I wanted to be successful on my own and I want to have a career and not only for myself, but for my girls. I want to be a good role model and someone they look up to.
"There's so many opportunities to be and do things."
The STEMM program at Burnside State High School started in 2007 in response to pregnant and parenting young women wanting to re-engage in education.
Course co-ordinator Janelle Logan said since STEMM opened its doors, 31 girls had graduated to university, TAFE or employment with another six girls expected to graduate at the end of the year.
"Most girls take two years to complete their course of study which usually includes the birth of their child, a First Aid Qualification and a course in Parenting skills," she said.
"STEMM is an inspirational success story where vulnerable and socially isolated young people are given the support, resources and skills that instil in them a sense of pride and a belief in themselves as valued and respected members of the community.
"STEMM enables all the young women in the program to achieve their dreams and to become wonderful mothers and role models to their children, peers and families."
Victoria graduated from STEMM in July after completing her TPP earlier this year.
She is now completing a Bachelor of Social Work at University of the Sunshine Coast and aims to finish the four-year degree by 2016/17.
Victoria, who has two daughters, Bella aged two and 10-month-old Paige, said STEMM was valuable on many levels.
"Considering they've got a creche there, you can put your children in and you're right there, in the same building," she said.
"You don't have to worry about putting them in childcare and being in a different place when they're so young. It helps a lot."
Victoria admitted it was a struggle when she first started uni, but things were getting easier and she was enjoying her classes.
"I've only been doing one subject a semester, when I started, Paige was only five months old, she was coming with me to my tutor, but as she got older and made more noise, I couldn't keep going, I had to withdraw from the first course," she said.
"I'm doing my second subject now, it's a lot easier, I put her in family day care, the same place where Bella goes."
Despite her departure from STEMM, Victoria finds comfort in knowing they're always there.
Tsenla Beck-Cowper, 23, graduated from STEMM last year and was recently presented with the inaugural Janet Smith Memorial Award and bursary for being a STEMM Ambassador.
Tsenla joined STEMM on the advice from a neighbour, six months after the birth of her daughter Aeisha, who turns three tomorrow.
Tsenla left Burnside High School at the beginning of Year 12 due to family circumstances and never considered going to uni.
"I never wanted to go to uni but I was there for about a year-and-a-half to complete TPP and the support I had from all the teachers," she said.
"It was good to know my daughter was there, they have a crèche in the same room. I wouldn't have been able to do that at uni."
Tsenla started at USC for the second semester last year and is studying a three-year nursing degree part time, which she hopes to finish by the end of 2015.
Ms Logan said once the girls graduated from STEMM they continued to receive support.
"Graduates from STEMM are welcome to visit when they need support. We are only a phone call away," she said.
For more information, visit stemm.com.au.
STEMM has been recognised in:
- Regional Education Queensland Showcase Awards for Excellence in School and Industry Partnerships in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
- Australian Award for Teaching Excellence - Excellence by a School and its Community - 2009.
- Schools First Impact Award - Outstanding Performance in Establishing School and Community Partnerships - 2010.
- Regional Showcase Award - Innovation 2012.
- State Finalist in the Education Queensland Showcase Awards - Innovation 2012.