When Leslie was a child, she and her mother had to move continuously to escape an abusive family member. After staying at shelters, there were times when Leslie didn’t know if they would ever find a safe place.
Leslie was 15 when she found out she was pregnant and felt far from ready to become a mom, but her daughter Sophia became her motivation and reason for never giving up.
“My life changed very quickly and I didn’t get to experience my teens the way most did,” Leslie said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let my childhood experiences get in the way of being the best parent I could be.”
Struggling to finish high school, Leslie pushed hard to graduate.
“For me to continue my education, I needed a safe place for my daughter Sophia to be,” Leslie said. “My daughter was almost 2 and from the moment I toured the Walla Walla Early Learning Center I knew we found the right place.”
Staff at the center involved Leslie in her child’s development with regular progress reports and provided a family advocate to meet with Leslie to discuss goals for her and her child.
“I improved my parenting skills as a teen parent and I’m forever thankful for the pride I feel,” Leslie said. “I’m so lucky to have found CHSW and their early learning program for my daughter.”
Leslie was then able to start on her college credits with the help of the alternative education program at Walla Walla Community College. She also received her certified nursing assistant license and had the honor to walk with her class. Leslie continued working on her early childhood education degree and when a position opened for an educator assistant at the Walla Walla Early Learning Center, where her daughter had received care, staff encouraged her to apply.
“I have enjoyed being an educator assistant at CHSW for almost five years,” Leslie said. “I love being on the opposite side at the center and learned a great deal while gaining new relationships.”
Leslie’s daughter Sophia, 8, is doing well in school and Leslie now has another daughter Izabella, 3.
“I want to continue to work with children because investing in them, is investing in all of us,” Leslie said. “Teen parents need a voice to advocate for themselves and their children. CHSW was my advocate and they provided services when I needed them most. When families are struggling, we need an organization like CHSW in our community.”
Jennifer Parsons is the marketing communications manager for CHSW.