Thursday, May 30, 2013

This wasn't the adventure it sounds

My guiding principle for my work life has always been something Diana Sugg said at a conference a few years ago. "Follow your ghosts." My mother had me as a teenager 30 years ago.

That said, work, recently:

Where I worked today - portrait day for teen mothers

The playroom became a beauty salon when the bell rang. It was 2 p.m. at Roosevelt High School, two weeks shy of summer, and the teen mothers whose toddlers attend Albina Early Head Start at the school were prepping for family pictures.

Anna Baldwin-Sanders, a part-time teacher at Head Start, twisted 17-year-old Lourdes Castillo's hair around a curling iron, while another teacher finished up a perm nearby.

"Luis," Lourdes called to her boyfriend, who was feeding their 11-month-old son, Christopher, a bottle. "Find his tie."

Outside, members of West Linn's SouthLake Church had transformed a school courtyard into a portrait studio. The church has volunteered at the St. Johns school for five years. Each year, members ask Ariana Altieri, the Portland School District's teen-parent coordinator, what the teen mothers need.

After the church bought diapers, box fans and clothes, its members had one more question for the parents: What do you want?

Family pictures topped the list, so Wednesday church member Karen Bonelli-Sanquist brought her Nikon and spent three hours making portraits of 11 families. The church congregation will print each family's favorite photographs.

At 2:30 p.m., Lourdes emerged in ringlets. Christopher's onesie had given way to a three-piece suit, complete with a blue tie and a tongue stained cupcake-blue. The wind blew Christopher's tuft of hair into a fauxhawk like his father's.

Lourdes and Luis met four years ago during a soccer trip to Mt. Hood. They started dating a year later, and when Christopher came, Lourdes transferred to Roosevelt from Benson to be closer to her family and to enroll her son in Head Start. Luis took a year off to earn money working full-time at McDonalds. The 19-year-old said he plans to enroll in Roosevelt in the fall. The couple will graduate together next year, just as Christopher hits his terrible twos.

Those tantrum days seemed far off Thursday, though, as their boy beamed for the pictures, revealing all eight teeth at once.

"He's a natural," said church member Beth Romes, who, 37 years ago, was a teen mother herself.

"I take a lot of pictures of him," Lourdes said, motioning toward her phone. But the trio hadn't had a photo taken together since Christopher was only a month, she said.

Lourdes drops Christopher off each morning at Head Start then picks him at 4 p.m., after school and after homework. Two weeks from now, the family will be on its own for a few months.

This summer, Albina will discontinue its summer program for the first time. Before federal budget cuts, teachers such as Baldwin-Sanders visited the mothers once a week for half-an-hour at their homes. They also hosted monthly socials for the families. Baldwin-Sanders and the Southlake members are trying to create a volunteer program for this summer, but they're not sure yet if it'll work out.

As the afternoon neared 4 p.m., Bonelli-Sanquist turned her camera to show the family a sneak peek of the photos. The family had knelt to fit on a child's-sized bridge, and the pictures made the school brick look picaresque.

At the right angle, you couldn't even make out the cafeteria windows, the students spilling out from afternoon activities, just a wall away.

1 comment:

Alsgal said...

Casey this was amazing. I was so afraid that I had caused you damage by being a teenage mom but you are living proof that sometimes you get lucky. I love you baby