Series to Assist Teenage, Single Mothers

When Marcelle Haddix received the news of 20-month-year-old Imani Jennings’ death, she understood that a tragedy had befallen the community: a toddler was repeatedly abused and later beaten to death by her teenage mother’s 15-year-old-boyfriend. Yet, the one thing she couldn’t understand was why community members had failed to support Jennings or her mother long before the toddler’s death.

Haddix, an assistant professor at Syracuse University, received little response from her community about support for children like Jennings or their teenage mothers, so she decided to take action. She formed the Mothers Offering Youth Opportunity (MOYO) program, a six-week workshop series aimed at assisting teenage mothers in Syracuse’s lower-income communities.

“There’s this culture here – not unlike other places – where teenage pregnancy, motherhood and poverty are issues people tend to sweep under the rug,” said Haddix, one of the event’s organizers. Simangaliso Miller is the other organizer.

MOYO, which holds its first meeting Oct. 17 at the Beauchamp Library on Salina Street, plans to address this concern by holding a forum for teenage and single mothers to openly discuss their experiences and needs.

Additional meetings in the program will include GED tutoring, writing workshops, a group reading of Sapphire’s book “Push,” as well as individual mentoring.

“We don’t want mothers to just come with struggles, but we want women who have struggled to come back and mentor,” Haddix said.  “But people can’t do it alone. We have to work together – so MOYO comes out of that.”

Also, the series will include a book club for the book “Push” by Sapphire, the focus of an upcoming movie, “Precious.” The book discussion will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 9, at the Mary Nelson Youth Center.

If you have any questions and/or would like to pre-register, e-mail

— Story by Lyndra Vassar, a graduate student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

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