Graduation: A Young Parent Shares How Her Efforts and Sixpence Helped Her Enter the Next Phase

When a young woman in Crete, Nebraska named Yecenia Luna became pregnant, she still had her sights set on the future. Her dedication and Sixpence helped her reach her goals.  

While in high school, Yecenia found out that she was pregnant, thus deciding to make one of the most pivotal transitions in her life from student to mother. This new avenue, however, didn’t stop the young mom-to-be from focusing on another major life event: her high school graduation.  

Understandably, Yecenia was confronted with anxiety.  

“I was scared and worried that I was not going to be able to finish high school after I found out I was pregnant,” she said.  

But her fears didn’t end there. Yecenia worried about making a choice out of desperation and having to forego her education due to becoming a mother.  

Suddenly, for Yecenia, she saw a cycle which Sixpence strives to break, one that she, with her insight and resiliency, didn’t wish to repeat.  

“I was afraid I was going to have to drop out of high school, and was not going to give my child a better future than I was given, and I was just going to fill the stereotype of ‘teen mom,’” she said.  

Luckily, Yecenia was able to find the support she needed, thanks to her resolve and her high school guidance counselor, who referred her to the Sixpence program.  

As an organization that’s dedicated to preventing problems before they begin, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Early Childhood initiatives like Sixpence assist those who need it most. Like Yecenia, many young parents are motivated and goal-oriented, and like most of us, they can use a little help. 

Yecenia (middle) poses with her family.
Yecenia (middle) poses with her family.

After her referral, Yecenia encountered yet another transition: she was accepted into the Sixpence program. When her daughter was born, Sixpence provided support, including home visits, when families are paired with an early childhood professional, also known as a home visitor.  

Home visits make up an integral part of the Sixpence model and provide parents the opportunity to work alongside highly skilled experts. These professionals are adept at assessing children’s developmental roadblocks and teaching parents to become their child’s best champion and most important teacher.  

Yecenia said that she learned a great deal about parental best practices and child development strategies. More than anything, she learned how to cultivate her preexisting strength.  

“My home visitor not only taught me parenting and child development skills, but also helped me be resilient and empowered,” she said.  

Yecenia said that through rituals such as reading to her child daily and emotional regulation, she developed a strong relationship with her daughter. The gains that the young mom saw, however, were neither confined to her daughter’s early years nor short-term improvements. Overtime, Yecenia was thrilled to see sustained growth and transformation in her child.  

“Ten years later, [I’d] see how important reading and identifying emotions was to her and my growth,” she said.  

Aside from Yecenia’s enjoying the long-term payoffs from her participation in Sixpence, the program offered supports to help her excel in other areas of her life. 

Yecenia continued to partake in Sixpence services such as childcare assistance, parenting support groups, and a network of other teenage parents. With the help of these resources, Yecenia entered yet another time of transition and development for her and her daughter, and into even bigger accomplishments. 

“Sixpence helped me by assisting with childcare, connecting me with other teens in my situation, parenting support groups, as well as helping me find employment,” she said.   

Eventually, thanks to her hard work and a little help from Sixpence, this young woman made the most impressive transition of all: she graduated from high school! Yecenia expressed her gratitude for the Sixpence program and her home visitor

Yecenia achieved her goal: she graduated high school! Here, she poses with (l to r) her Sixpence home visitor, daughter, and mother.
Yecenia achieved her goal: she graduated high school! Here, she poses with (l to r) her Sixpence home visitor, daughter, and mother.

“Thanks to the support of Sixpence and my home visitor Patti, [I was] empowered to graduate from high school,” she said. 

But Yecenia didn’t stop there. She went on to receive a full-ride scholarship to the University of Nebraska Kearney. She chose a special field that resonated with her and would allow her to give back.  

“I chose to major in Social Work for my desire to help others,” she said. Yecenia said she continued to succeed as she transitioned, again, from a mom and student to a mom and caseworker.  

“After graduating college, I started my career as a caseworker in Omaha,” she said. Still, Yecenia encountered yet another major and wonderful change. 

On to the next success! Yecenia graduated from UNK with a degree in Social Work, so she could give back.
On to the next success! Yecenia graduated from UNK with a degree in Social Work, so she could give back.

“I then became pregnant with my second child and felt it was best to be a stay-at-home mom,” she said.  

As she grew comfortable in her new role as a full-time mother, Yecenia relocated to her hometown of Crete, when she saw that Sixpence was hiring a home visitor. 

“I decided it was my turn to give back to my community and be part of the program that helped me during my most challenging part of my life,” she said. 

Yecenia doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. 

“I have been a home visitor for three years now and took the role of teaching other vulnerable families the essential skills I learned, and still continue learning, of early childhood development and its importance to the success of our children’s future.”   

Yecenia is going on three years strong as a Sixpence home visitor! l to r: Fabiola Dimas, Yecenia Luna, Elizabeth Perez, and Lorena Mendez.
Yecenia is going on three years strong as a Sixpence home visitor! l to r: Fabiola Dimas, Yecenia Luna, Elizabeth Perez, and Lorena Mendez.

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Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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Posted in Cradle to career, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, News and Events

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