Whitney Moore graduated with BA and MA degrees in Social Work in 2010 and 2016 respectively, and is now a licensed social worker. She currently serves families through the Department of Human Services and is starting a nonprofit to assist young mothers and fathers. And though Whitney suffered her fair share of obstacles on the way to her success, Covenant House Pennsylvania helped her through.
“ When, at 16, I told my high school counselor I was pregnant, she said:
‘Your plans to go to college? All you have worked for academically despite the constant moves and the alcohol-related chaos of your childhood home? Forget about it. Kiss it all goodbye.’
Thankfully a school nurse overheard the conversation and pulled me aside. She’d had a three-year-old when she went to college and here she was - a nurse. She let me know that it was possible, that all was not lost. That I could do it.
I had attended 7 schools by 9th grade due to evictions or my family insecurity. My saving grace as a child had been my academics. That’s what kept me on track. I was accepted into six colleges and achieved high SAT scores, which helped set my course.
In the spring of 2005, I entered as a freshman at West Chester University.
But by my sophomore year, I was pregnant with my second child. My mom had let me stay at home during my first year and had kept my baby during classes. But with a second child, she decided I was grown up enough to be on my own.
She gave me 30 days to move out.
I called Covenant House. They had a place the very next day. The first night was scary. I had heard about ‘shelters.’ I had never been away from my family and I had my little daughter and was pregnant.
But Covenant House was not what I had expected. I was given my own room with my daughter and was provided with a lot of resources. Covenant House staff helped me apply for TANF, for Medical Assistance, and for my State ID. They also helped me apply for more permanent housing. I started a savings account and within 45 days I had a deposit to move to a transitional housing program through Helping Philadelphia.
Covenant House provided just what I needed to move on. Covenant House gave me an important step forward towards finding stability for me and my small family.
Throughout my time at Covenant House and into my transitional program, I was determined to stay in school. I rose at 4 am, taking my children to a relative’s, worked from 6-9 am at UPS, then drove to school an hour away to take classes. Immediately after class, I picked up my children and returned to the shelter, did my school work and cared for my children, then repeated this the next day. I was exhausted, but I wouldn’t – couldn’t – give up.
In preparing for an assignment in a social work class I found I wanted to be a social worker. We had to list resources for people that needed help. I knew how to do that! I could tell them about the formal and informal supports that had benefited me. Through courses and an internship with a child welfare agency, I honed my skills while helping families not that different from my own.
I tell the people I support, “Becoming a parent at 17 came with a HUGE learning curve! Seek help when you need it! It doesn't make you weak or incapable if you need help. I am of the mind that it takes great strength to seek assistance in a society that is "pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” Don't be guilted into trying to manage on your own and end up overwhelmed.
And Love yourself! Even in times of challenge, even when you make a mistake, love yourself. If you know you are doing the best you can by your children, and you ought to hug yourself and tell yourself how proud you are!
Please support other homeless young people at Covenant House PA, working hard to overcome unstable backgrounds and find lasting stability for themselves and their families.