I met Stephanie Huerta and Angel Alvarez in June 2010, when they graduated from the rigorous Doctors Academy at Caruthers High School.
She was ranked third in her graduating class; he was a three-sport varsity athlete; and their daugther, Emily, was three years old. The teen parents, who were engaged, intended to attend UC Santa Cruz and raise their daughter together.
At that point, I was inspired by how much the pair had overcome, and how determined they were to succeed – together – in order to provide for their daughter. Even after interviewing dozens of young women for an in-depth series on teen pregnancy last year, this couple’s still story stood out to me.
So earlier this year, I reconnected with Stephanie. My co-worker, photographer Daniel Cásarez, and I visited the family in February at UC Santa Cruz, where they are now full-time students. They intend to get married once they can afford Stephanie’s dream wedding, and will raise Emily – and maybe more children – together.
As we sat in their small kitchen, in their Student Family Housing apartment with a view of the Pacific Ocean, I realized that this is the teen pregnancy success story we don’t hear often enough.
So – what’s the secret? – I asked them. How have you two been so successful, in school and as parents, when so many other teen parents face significant challenges?
“We just love each other,” Angel said. “It’s as simple as that.”
“We’ve gone through so much,” Stephanie said. “One little thing just doesn’t make a difference.”
Read more about Stephanie, Angel and Emily in ‘Baby Steps in College,’ featured in this week’s edition of Vida en el Valle.
For the past six weeks, between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Vida en el Valle has run a multiple-part series called ‘The Youngest Parents’ about teen pregnancy. In case you missed any of the stories, they are listed below.
This week in ‘The Youngest Parents,’ Vida’s continuing series on teen pregnancy among Latinos in the San Joaquín Valley, I profiled two young women: A 16-year-old who is newly pregnant, and a 22-year-old mother of a 6-year-old son, who is beating the odds.
Meet Cynthia, a 16-year-old sophomore at Madera North High School, who is four months pregnant. In this video message, she encourages all young women to use protection if they decide to become sexually active.
Meet Mayra, a 22-year-old junior at California State University, Fresno. She became pregnant at age 15, and is today the mother of 6-year-old Daniel.
Statistics say that as a teen mom, Mayra is more likely to have less educational attainment, and Daniel, as the son of a teen mom, is more likely to become incarcerated. Mayra is proving everyone wrong.
Of those Latina teen moms, 54 percent do not complete high school, according to The National Campaign
Kern, Kings, Tulare, and Madera had the four highest teen birth rates in California in 2008, According to the Public Policy Institute. Fresno and Merced were ranked seventh and eight in the state in teen pregnancy rates.
But this blog is not going to dwindle on the numbers.
Let’s focus, instead, on some fantastic, youth-generated teen pregnancy prevention videos. These videos do a great job of describing the issues and challenges around teen pregnancy – in words that will resonate with other teens.
The seven Latino teens featured in the candid video filmed themselves using Flip Cameras, and responded to open-ended questions about what it’s like to be a Latino teen today, and their views on teen pregnancy.
This PSA and others, as well as a short film, will be broadcast on MTV Tr3s from Dec. 13 – Dec. 26.
Watch these videos and let us know: What do you think of these videos? Can youth-generated videos make a difference in the Valley’s teen pregnancy rates?