By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
Becoming pregnant at the age of 16 resulted in years of hardship for Felicia Campbell, who was forced to juggle motherhood and her education while working two jobs.
To make life a bit easier for teenagers who find themselves in a similar situation, she has now launched a new organisation which she believes will go a long way in giving direction and guidance to teen parents in the Bahamas.
The Teen Life Skill Services were launched in February and are designed to bring awareness to the needs and issues teenage parents face in the community through social media.
"Teen Life Skill Services believes that the biggest problems teen parents face are lack education, lack of support and the need to provide for their children," Felicia told Tribune Woman.
According to the Bahamas Vital Statistics 2013 reports, 462 teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in a year.
"Based on my research, more than 35 per cent of teen moms never return to high school and go into the workforce illiterate. Also, a high rate of prostitution, child abuse and repeat pregnancies are the negative outcomes that occur from these risk factors," said Felicia.
"Teen fathers receive the most lack of support in the 242 community. Faced with rejection, lack of education and no positive encouragement, teen fathers are filtered out of their child's lives. Based on my research and personal experience, this leads the teen father into depression, alcoholism, even gang violence, as a way to handle their frustration."
Being a mother at the age of 16 was hard for Felicia, and not having enough support, direction or guidance made the journey even more difficult.
She started her early education at Queen's College. However, after getting pregnant with her first child at 16, she attended the PACE school for girls, re-entered the government school system and graduated from D W Davis High School in 1999.
Furthering her education after high school, however, was a daunting task because she had to balance school, motherhood and two jobs.
"I tried to further my education by attending the Hotel Training College, which is now the University of the Bahamas. I was unsuccessful in completing a degree in Hospitality Management due to the hardship of balancing school and motherhood. I then went head on into the workforce, holding down two jobs for five years," she said.
Felicia then re-entered the University of the Bahamas to obtain a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, but was unsuccessful. It was only after the birth of her second child and renewing her faith in Christ that she found a path to success.
"I found a school that was flexible (and worked) with my work schedule. I also was able to use my credits from the University of the Bahamas and enrol in New Covenant University (NCU) based in Jacksonville, Florida," she said.
Felicia then earned her Bachelor of Arts in Christian Counselling this year and became a mentor at Chanjed Mentorship for girls, which helped her to sharpen her mentoring skills.
Joining this mentorship initiative also led her to becoming a part of the National Youth Leadership programme (cohort 2017). She was successful in becoming a certified youth leader.
"Being a teen mom, I always desired to give back and inspire other teen moms. I also saw the need for more relatable support programmes to assist not only teen mothers, but teen fathers also in the 242 community. I had no knowledge of how I was to achieve this goal. However, when I became a part of the National Youth Certification programme under the guidance of Cherrylee Pinder, John Darville and my increasing faith, I was inspired to create and launch Teen Life Skill Services," she said.
Within the next 18 months, Teen Life Skills Services plans to launch a series of strength-based programmes to assist teen parents. One of the programmes is the 'Life Change' mentorship course.
This programme is designed to take an individualised approach to the needs of teen parents and to help them find their spark. The goal is to encourage teen parents to return to high school. The 'Life Change' programme promotes spiritual knowledge in teen parents, as well as literacy, and encourages strong attachment to their children.
Felicia said this programme also will assist teen parents with the supplies they need for them and their kids.
"This added incentive allows teen parents in school to experience a smooth time. In the next six months, Teen Life Skills Services will be hosting a baby drive. We will be accepting children's books, pampers and baby supplies for teen parents that are facing hardship in the 242 community. Within the next 12 months, Teen Life Skills Services will be hosting a series of community workshops. These workshops will be geared to life skills training, conflict resolutions, literacy and a counselling session for teen parents and their families," said Felicia.
"The need for more community support is a developmental asset to teen parents. Helping them reach their self-actualization and find their spark despite the hard circumstances they face is the solution to the issues teen parents and their children face.
"Teen parents should not be left to wander and fend for themselves. Programmes that promote spiritual knowledge, life skills training, community support, counselling, literacy, encouraging good parental attachment on a consist basis will definitely reduce the growing problems teen parents face," she said.