Hilltop School, part of Felton Institute’s Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPP), recently celebrated a graduation. The TAPP provides case management to help ensure that expectant and parenting families have equitable access to health care, education, and social services. 

TAPP Graduation Class of 2021

“We are strong and resilient,” Mayra Espinoza, a graduating high school senior said. “If we can get through this, we can get through anything we put our minds to.” 

Espinoza, a teenage parent, and the 2021 Hilltop class valedictorian, invites the Hilltop graduates to reflect on their experiences working through high school curriculum while raising their children. As she gives her speech to classmates and audience members, Espinoza beams with pride and excitement for what the future holds. Her confidence and enthusiasm are clear, but skeptics haven’t always been certain she would get this far, she said.

“They say you won’t finish school, but you can’t listen to them. You have to be strong and keep going, keep working,” Espinoza said in reflection of her experience as a teenage parent.

Although Espinoza and her many graduating classmates have successfully earned their high school diploma while raising their young children, the odds stand against them. Pregnancy is the number one reason young women drop out of high school. Raising a child while completing school curriculum is a challenging endeavor, but programs like TAPP can significantly improve the chances of success for young teenage parents. With resources like academic support services, vocational training, child development education, and mental health care, these teenage parents have a more robust system of support. 

“They help you build a future at Hilltop,” Espinoza said. “And they also build a community.”

Espinoza reflects on how her classmates at Hilltop often share stories and advice with one another. Connecting with her classmates, learning from them, and gaining a sense of community is what helped Espinoza get through her schooling, she says.

Although statistically, only 10% of teenage mothers go on to complete a two or four-year degree after high school graduation, Espinoza has been accepted to a four-year university and plans to attend while raising her son. 

Programs like Hilltop School can massively mitigate the short and long-term impacts initiated by teen pregnancy. Seven out of 10 teen mothers who move out of their family’s home live below the poverty line, leading to other issues that may be damaging for their children in the future. For example, children who are born to teen mothers may experience a wide range of difficulties including: 

  • Having a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality 
  • Having fewer skills and being less prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten 
  • Exhibiting behavioral problems and chronic medical conditions 
  • Facing a higher risk of foster care placement

Felton Institute’s teen parenting program plays a vital role in serving the public—supporting teenage parents directly is an investment in the whole community. Whether offering a more supportive high school experience or providing resources that build a stronger family—programs like TAPP are essential in creating a prosperous environment for all young people to thrive. 

“Walking across that stage felt special.” Espinoza said. “When I transferred to Hilltop, I became the person I always wanted to be.” 

Community contributions and donations are crucial for keeping Felton Institute program like TAPP open and operating. Many of the parents served through this program are low-income or living in poverty. If you are moved by the positive impacts made by TAPP, we invite you to invest in the services that make this program possible.

 Giving to Felton Institute is easy! Simply fill out the donate form on our webpage felton.org/donate.

Felton Donation Page

Written By Alisa Thorsen 

About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult, and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties. Felton’s social services and programs utilize the latest scientific research, combining cultural sensitivity, deep respect for client and staff, and a commitment to social justice.

Felton is the oldest non-sectarian and nonprofit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. For over a century, Felton Institute has been at the forefront of social service innovation, pioneering new approaches to meet underserved populations’ emerging needs. At the heart of our work is the belief that individuals and families in crisis must have access to services and resources to help them build on their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org