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Community News: Southeast

BELL GARDENS : Mentors Available for Teen-Age Parents

October 25, 1992|DUKE HELFAND

The Montebello Unified School District is offering an adult mentor program at Bell Gardens and Montebello high schools for teen-age parents who are having problems raising their children and staying in school.

Directors of the Juntos Podemos (Together We Can Do It) project hope to reach 30 to 35 single parents or couples. About 20 adult volunteers have signed up as counselors and will be paired with the teen-age parents this week.

"A lot of these girls don't have a mother-daughter relationship. They just need some direction," said Aurora Martinez, head teacher of the district's infant toddler development center at Montebello High School. "This is not about lecturing them. Just listen, and be there to guide."

The mentors--some of whom were also teen-age mothers--along with Montebello city employees and Head Start workers, are required to phone the teen-age parents at least three times a month and meet with them once a month. The entire group will meet monthly at Montebello High School, with the first meeting Nov. 16. The group also will take weekend field trips, Martinez said.

Teen-age pregnancy is a widespread problem for Southeast area youths, said Mary Lou Williams, who supervises the school district's infant toddler development center.

Citing figures from the state Department of Health Services, Williams said there have been an estimated 500 births annually over the past seven years to mothers under age 18 in Montebello, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Bell and Cudahy.

The new mentor program, funded by a $14,000 federal grant, is directed at parents with children ages two weeks to 2 1/2 years. Although it will reach only a fraction of the teen-age parents in the Southeast area, Williams believes the program is an important start.

"We're always telling them, 'Don't have sex,' but no one tells them how to have relationships," Williams said. "We tend not to want our children to make mistakes, but they are going to make mistakes. We need to be there to help them."

Aside from offering friendship, the mentors also will provide guidance on financial aid applications, tutoring and other services.

Williams said mentors will be encouraged to take the teen-age parents to visit colleges and job-training programs to prepare them for life after high school.

Information: (213) 887-7843.

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