2014 Imagine Award honoree Saniteah Gboley.
Saniteah was only in 10th grade when she became pregnant. Still just a girl herself, Saniteah and her family were still coming to grips with the sudden loss of her mother just a year earlier. Now Saniteah was going to be a mother – who would she turn to for the care, advice, and support she needed? Her father was struggling to assume the work of two parents and was not pleased with this unexpected turn of events. Grieving, angry, frustrated, and maybe a little afraid of having to care for a newborn, Saniteah’s father even threatened to put her out.
Fortunately Saniteah had an advocate, Ann Sandridge, the school nurse at Charlottesville High School. Ann made sure Saniteah had what she needed for a healthy pregnancy, including information about prenatal vitamins, snacks for her when she was hungry, and connecting her to CHiP. CHiP’s Teen Outreach Program would become part of the web of support that would help Saniteah get through the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenting.
Taking care of a baby and trying to keep up in school is just as hard as you might imagine, and Saniteah struggled at first. While most teenagers would be sleeping, Saniteah was learning the ropes of nursing and bottles and changing diapers. New mom exhaustion took its toll on her schoolwork, but she took advantage of the groups run by Torri, CHiP’s Teen Outreach Coordinator. These support groups are a place for pregnant and parenting teens to get information, support, encouragement, and comfort knowing that there are others going through the same experience. And Torri knows how to keep it fun and informative!
Saniteah participated in the school teen group, welcomed home visits by CHiP staff, and embraced the responsibilities of motherhood. Saniteah learned to do for her son and for herself, making independence and the ability to support her child a priority. So she applied herself to finishing school and made it to graduation – an accomplishment of which both she and her son could be proud. Saniteah is now working, taking college courses, and caring for an active two year old. And while she might tell you that she doesn’t have the energy of her son Payne, we know it takes a lot of energy and determination to be the kind of responsible, loving parent we have watched her become!