Due to the success of our last post about the Rock Island High School Teen Parent and Child Center, we have decided to put the spotlight on one of the directors of that program, Amanda LeVan. Amanda has worked for the YWCA for 19 years now and she has spent many of those years at the RIHS location. Before that, she was a student helper in the high school day care room as well. She has worked hard to make the Teen Parent and Child Center as successful as it is today, as was excited to share these memories with me.
Amanda has been working at with the YWCA since October of 1997. Her time at RIHS has been very special to her. She has big goals and aspirations for each of the parents and children, and she works hard to make sure they can meet them. One of her goals for the center is to take away the stigma of teen parenthood, and help parents move past feeling like a statistic. She wants the students to be motivated to better their lives as well as their children’s lives. When she’s not at work, Amanda is busy with her two kids, and schooling. Amanda is working towards her Child Development degree at Scott Community College.
One of Amanda’s favorite memories at the RIHS center was during a Thanksgiving meal with the children. A two-year-old explained to her that the turkey didn’t taste like his grandma’s, the corn didn’t taste like his mom’s, and the mashed potatoes didn’t taste like KFC’s. This sticks out to Amanda because she was so impressed that a two-year-old could express all of that, and she was proud that she helped him develop those skills. Her favorite part of the job overall is the proud moment when a parent graduates. It’s incredibly rewarding to the staff to see their hard work pay off.
Amanda works with the school social worker to set up ‘Rock Time’ for young parents. Rock Time is a program put on by Rock Island High School to educate student on topics that may not be covered in class. Amanda and the social worker work to bring in groups that appeal to teen parents who have kids at the center as well as teen parents who don’t. Together, they bring in agencies and groups that help prepare the students for life. Topics include healthy food, developmental stages, and signs of abuse and neglect. They also bring in agencies like DCFS and WIC to inform students of they help they may be eligible to receive. Her goals for Rock Time are to help students see that there are places out there to help them, and to bring in groups that truly do want to help. She works with the students to bring in groups that meet their interests, such as homemade baby food and other feeding options. Amanda and her co-workers also make the children ‘yearbooks’ with pictures from all of the events each year. The ones I got to see included pictures from each holiday, and fun day-to-day activities. Each child gets to take one home at the end of the school year, just like their parents do.
When a student brings their child into the center, they are sometime down on themselves, or sad. Many feel like a statistic, and have lost motivation to finish school. Amanda and her coworkers strive to help these young parents feel like they are more than just a number. They work with them to find birth control options, drive them and their children to appointments, help from what they are eligible for, and ultimately to get them to graduate. Amanda is proud to have so many successful young parents leave the facility to work towards something bigger. She stays in touch with many families, and likes to keep tabs on the children as they grow up. She works hard to empower these young women, and to help them break stereotypes that they feel they are stuck in. She finds this job incredibly rewarding, and is thankful that she is here, where she needs to be.
This is part two of an ongoing to series to interview YWCA staff, and acknowledge them for their outstanding work.