‘We broke a statistic’

Young mothers earn high school diplomas, GEDs during pandemic


Like all high school graduates this year, Renay Padilla found herself faced with unexpected challenges when the pandemic hit in March, including altered study plans and daily uncertainties piled on top of her schoolwork.

But unlike all graduates, Padilla, 24, was also balancing being a mother with finishing school. That process was anything but easy, she said, but it was worth it — and on Sept. 10, Padilla and several other young mothers celebrated their graduation.

“It was difficult being a single mom with two boys but eventually, I just had the motivation to finish,” said Padilla, who will begin studying to become a pharmacy technician in January. “The whole reason I did it was to make a better life for me and my kids.”

The graduating moms earned their high school diplomas or GEDs through a Hope House program. The local nonprofit serves Denver area young mothers who are in need of financial, educational and emotional support.

This year, about a dozen moms graduated from Hope House’s High School and GED program, many completing all or the majority of their coursework during COVID-19. Together with their children, parents, friends and family members, the moms reflected on their accomplishments with a ceremony at the Trinity Church of Wheat Ridge.

During the ceremony Hope House Executive Director Lisa Steven commended the moms for their accomplishments so far and encouraged the moms for challenges they will face in the years to come.

“It’s a challenge enough to earn your GED or diploma and it’s even more difficult when you’re parenting,” she said. “I could not be more personally proud of you.”

A former Hope House grad named Cassandra was scheduled to speak to the moms but could not attend due to exposure to COVID. However, her speech was read out loud during the ceremony, with a reminder that everything the moms had done would serve as a strong example for their children.

“Graduating isn’t easy but you did it. Just like everything else in life, it’s possible, and you proved that,” she wrote. “You are all big role models. We broke a statistic.”

As for Padilla, she said that like many of her fellow graduates, she could not have graduated without Hope House.

“They helped in so many ways, not only just my schooling. It’s a family I can reach out to,” she said. “They’re constantly cheering you on. If you’re a teen mom, Hope House is the place to come.”


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