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For the majority of my life, my brothers and I were raised by a single mom, my grandparents, and various friends of our family.

I lost two members of my family in a car accident that nearly claimed my own life. As a child, I endured significant abuse at the hands of people my family trusted. That led to mental health issues, including depression, and many suicide attempts up until recent years.

I dropped out of school in the beginning of Grade 10 after my mom moved to Kelowna from Vancouver to remarry, and after the death of my adored Opa. I was 16 at the time that I conceived my daughter and with limited options, I moved to Kelowna where my mother offered to support whatever decisions I made once the baby was born.

There is an incredibly negative stigma towards young mothers, and I feared those terribly. Many people say what horrible parents young mothers are — especially the single ones — and I had the same thoughts the day I discovered I was pregnant. But my mom made it clear that I was to finish my high school education whether I kept the child or not.

I am now 19 years old. My daughter is almost two and a half, and we have spent two years with the YMCA Young Parent Program. Without the support of the YMCA, the absolutely amazing and irreplaceable Joan Spence (YMCA Young Parent Program Family Support Facilitator) and all of the wonderful and caring donors, my life and my daughter’s life would be very different today. I truly thought nothing would ever change for the better for us.

I was wrong about that.

  • I have accepted help on an immense scale
  • I stopped drinking 6 cups of coffee a day and learned how to cook healthier foods and vegetarian recipes
  • My daughter’s vocabulary and understanding is quite extraordinary for her age, and with skills learned in the YPP and the help of YMCA caregivers, its expanded further and I’m amazed at her progress
  • Both my daughter and I have developed positive and stable friendships; we are part of a community that understands one another and accepts each other without judgement
  • We’ve been given a YMCA membership where my daughter and I just started taking swimming lessons and I use the gym and take yoga classes to take care of myself
  • My parenting has improved significantly due to the skills I have learned and I have much more patience with my daughter
  • We were provided with bus passes to get to school and child care everyday

And I’m so proud to say that I graduated in June with honours and a 98% grade in Accounting 12.

Since I discovered that I excel in accounting, I have set a goal to earn my degree as a CPA. I am currently working with Joan and WorkBC in their Single Parent Employment Initiative to get my BBA with an accounting specialty. An education and career will help me become financially secure and give my daughter the opportunity to participate in sports, dance and whatever activities she wants… giving her a much brighter childhood than mine.

Thank you for giving us a more inspired future than we could ever have imagined.

If you would like to help, learn more, or visit the YMCA Young Parent Program, please contact Rhonda Zakala at 250-491-8672.