By Jim Benemann
DENVER (CBS4) – I was impressed visiting the campus of Florence Crittenton Services in west Denver. At well over 100 years old, it’s one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in Denver, and its longevity can be traced to its success stories. There are so many. And they all start with teenage mothers determine to make a good life for themselves and their child.
All the mothers here are pursuing their high school diplomas through courses supervised by Denver Public Schools. It’s a 35-year-long partnership that’s had remarkable success.
The teenaged moms have a graduation rate of between 80 and 85 percent, which is remarkable when you consider the mothers are raising a child while they pursue that diploma.
Suzanne Banning, president and CEO of Florence Crittenton, says she’s amazed and inspired by what the girls go through to take advantage of this program.
“Their strength and determination is remarkable. I mean, many of them get up at 4:30 a.m. so they hop on the light rail and then a couple of buses just to get here with their child. It’s all because they want a better future and a good life,” she said.
Julie Morales is one of those mothers. She’s 16 years old and raising a bouncing 9-month-old boy named Liam.
Julie says it’s much easier for her to study hard and focus on her future knowing Liam is well taken care of here.
“I’m happy to know my baby is in a safe place. I check on his during my school day and it’s like he doesn’t even miss me because he’s having so much fun with his friends and the day care team! It’s an incredible family here.”
The FloCrit staff takes care of 110 children ages six months through pre-K.
The Mile High United Way is one of the Center’s most loyal and generous supporters.
The United Way’s CEO in Christine Benero. She says the money invested in FloCrit is money well spent because the model of providing so much that teen moms need, in one place, has been a huge success.
“We focus on the young women as mothers but also as thriving members of our community. And FloCrit focuses on the whole family. Not just the mothers and their kids. But also the young fathers and the grandparents. Here they can find classes in financial literacy and other services so that the whole family can support that mother and her child. That is so important because the research shows it works. The model keeps the moms in school, and that’s vital to their long-term self-sufficiency.”
The United Way’s effort here is called The Center For Family Opportunity. And opportunity and compassion is what FloCrit is all about. Julie Morales is already planning to study accounting at Metro State University of Denver.
Jim Benemann is a longtime anchor at CBS4. He’s coming up on 40 years in the TV news business and loves reporting on the stories Coloradans are talking about. Send him your story ideas and follow Jim on Twitter @jimbcbs4.