Teen moms connect with their children through music
Sitting in a circle at the Sierra Teen Education & Parenting Program, a couple of teen moms talk about what they want for their children in the future.”I hope she’s outgoing,” 17-year-old Brigette Soto said, playing with the pigtails of her 14-month-old daughter, Paola.Soto said she’s starting to see signs that her daughter is social – in the grocery store and with others in the community.”She’s getting to be confident with herself,” Soto said. “She’s comfortable with strangers.”Soto chalks her daughter’s blossoming personality up to programs like Music and Me, an early childhood music and movement program that has been available to her and other teen moms at the STEPP center since before Paola was in the womb.This year, Music and Me might not be available to these moms for the first time in six years. STEPP Program Manager Cindy Maciel is still searching for money to bring the program to her students and their children.
A chance to let looseMusic and Me is taught by Truckee’s Rita Whitaker Haun. She provides the moms and babies with age-appropriate songs and activities – like a mom rhythmically bouncing a newborn on her lap or games that incorporate large and small motor skills for the toddlers.”[Music and Me] gives these moms tools to build a bond between themselves and their baby,” Whitaker Haun said.One key component of Music and Me is that Whitaker Haun acts goofy in class, and she encourages the teen moms to do the same.”The goofier the better,” she said. “I tell them, ‘Use your child as an excuse.'”For these young women, who feel torn between being a parent and being a teenager, it takes a while for them to drop their guards and act silly in class, said Maciel.But once they do let loose, “it is magic,” Maciel said.
Carla Cabrera, 16, was one of the students who initially wouldn’t participate with her class – she may have even rolled her eyes once or twice. But once Cabrera saw her son, Luis, enjoyed Music and Me, she began to join in.”I think [Luis] gets excited,” Cabrera said. “I have fun because he’s having fun.”Opportunity for young momsAfter six straight years of Music and Me at STEPP, there isn’t any funding to bring the program back this year.”That’s the frustrating part, trying to find the money,” said Maciel, who added that she has trouble paying for the day-to-day aspects of STEPP, let alone classes like Music and Me.Each year, Maciel visits local service groups, like Rotary and Soroptimists, to ask for money for Music and Me, usually to pay for one semester. Last year, Music and Me received a $3,000 grant from the Lahontan Community Foundation through the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, which enabled the program to run for the entire year.
This year, Maciel has her fingers crossed that she’ll find money for Music and Me in the spring.”These guys wouldn’t have the opportunity to take this class if it wasn’t offered here,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity, and their babies an opportunity, they wouldn’t have otherwise.”Cabrera and Soto said they are starting to see their hopes for theirs and other STEPP babies come into fruition thanks to classes like Music and Me.”The children [in STEPP] are smarter than other children that just sit at home,” Cabrera said.Soto agreed.”I just see that all the babies here are real smart,” she said. “I think it’s because of things like this music program.”To find out about helping the Music and Me program at Sierra Teen Education & Parenting Program, call Maciel at 582-1826.