Morgan Johnson is not your typical 21-year-old.
In fact, most her life has been anything but typical. At 15, while her friends were at parties and proms, Morgan was pregnant with her first child, Jordan.
"I never really had a teenage childhood," said Morgan. "In some ways I guess I missed out on things, but it doesn't really bother me. Having a child so young forced me to grow up quickly."
Pictured, from left, is the Johnson family: Jordan, Morgan and Jackson.
But Morgan wasn't alone. As a junior at Southwestern High School, she entered the Teenage Education and Motherhood Program at the YWCA. The program teaches teenage moms and dads parenting skills, while providing daycare for their children so they can finish their education.
"When you have a child as a teenager, you lose a lot of your friends because they can't relate to what you're going through. The TEAM Program linked me to other teens that were going through the same things I was," said Morgan. "It had a huge impact on me because there was such a loving support system in place. I wasn't judged."
After graduating from the program in 2009, Morgan Johnson was faced with the challenge of attending college, tackling three jobs to pay for college, and taking care of her son.
How To Donate
Here's how you can donate to the 2012 United Way Campaign:
Mail: United Way of Southern Chautauqua County
413 N. Main St.
Jamestown, NY 14701
"Those were extremely difficult months for me. I had to drop down to one job after a while because I simply couldn't do it all. I was so thankful for the parenting and independence skills I learned through TEAM. Without those skills, there's no way I would be where I am today," Morgan said.
Today, Morgan is working as a waitress at Red Lobster, while caring for her second son. Jackson Johnson is now 2 months old and the family is doing remarkably well. But this story could have turned out much differently. Beth Oakes is the executive director of the YWCA of Jamestown.
"TEAM takes a proactive approach to the most important job anyone can have, and that's being a parent. And that's why this program is so vital," Oakes said.
Although teenage pregnancies are declining in New York state, Chautauqua County's rate is going up. Teen births here jumped from 172 to 196 for the 15-to-17-year-old age group, according to the latest state Department of Health statistics.
"There are more teens needing services in Jamestown," said Ms. Oakes, "and we know our services are having a positive impact. Eighty percent of TEAM's senior class graduates, 90 percent of TEAM mothers avoid a repeat pregnancy, and 100 percent of the children in TEAM who need early intervention receive services."
The YWCA's TEAM Program is one of 44 local programs supported by donations to the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. Giving helps young mothers like Morgan Johnson receive the education and support they need to care for their families. And no job is more important than that.