Beacon of hope

June 1, 2018

Beacon of hope

Baby in one arm, books under the other, the STEMM classroom at Burnside State High School is a unique program offering pregnant teens and young mums a second chance to continue their education and reach their full potential. 
An unexpected pregnancy during the teenage years can be a lonely, daunting and overwhelming experience, but award-winning program STEMM (Supporting Teenagers with Education, Mothering and Mentoring) has proven that with the right support and guidance, these young women can achieve anything.
“STEMM empowers young mothers to gain independence through a holistic, wrap-around program, which is free of judgement,” says program coordinator Janelle Logan. 
“While most of our graduates go on to university or employment, it is equally important that our young mothers leave the program knowing how to love, care for and have good attachment with their child. They just need the right support and for someone to believe in them.”
The first of its kind in Queensland, the program was founded by Jacqui Dean in 2008. Pregnant with her third child, she was teaching at Burnside High and discovered she had a 14-year-old girl in her class who was also expecting and was struggling with school and home life.
Instead of attending mainstream classes, the STEMM curriculum provides a unique program tailored to pregnant women or young mums under 24. Offering several study pathways, they provide onsite childcare facilities for babies and children, as well as counsellors, dietitians, midwives and lactation specialists. 
On the eve of STEMM’s 10th anniversary, Profile caught up with three young women at different stages of their journeys to discover how the program changed their lives for the better. Here are their stories.  

Tamarah Randell, 27, Registered Nurse, with Sasha-Jayde, nine

After giving birth to Sasha, I felt isolated and judged every time I left the house. Then I met with a child health nurse who referred me to STEMM. This is where I found light at the end of the tunnel. STEMM created an opportunity of hope in my life. I was able to finish Year 12 while Sasha was cared for in an adjacent crèche. At no point did I feel judged or isolated. I felt loved. I was surrounded with girls in similar situations and made lasting friendships.
I thought, ‘Why can’t I follow my dreams and become the nurse I’ve always wanted to be?’
STEMM provided me with an opportunity to complete a Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) that lead me into nursing. There were numerous obstacles and melt downs including becoming a single mother but STEMM did not give up on me, they gave me the strength and encouragement I needed to pursue my dreams. They taught me how to balance life, work, study and raise a small child on my own. Yes it was hard, but I survived.
After completing TPP and enrolling into a Bachelor of Nursing, I graduated from STEMM. I completed my Bachelor of Nursing with a distinction and landed myself a registered nurse position with the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. I completed a graduate year and then transferred to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. I am now able to give back to the community what they have given me; strength, kindness and resilience.
I do believe in the saying, ‘From little things, big things grow’, and I am evidence that young mothers can become who they want to be. All they need is faith, support and encouragement.

Meleighta Maddock, 21, beauty therapy student, with Azarleigha, 10 months

I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant, it was very unexpected. Then I lost my father at 23 weeks into the pregnancy and I became very depressed, sleeping all day and staying up at night. I felt so helpless so I looked for programs in my area and I found STEMM. They gave me a reason to wake up.
Being able to bring my daughter to school is fantastic, it means I don’t have to pay huge childcare fees. She goes to the onsite creche so I can go and get her at any time. I see the counsellor once a week and she helps a lot and I am also taking driving lessons through STEMM. I’m studying beauty therapy and will graduate with a certificate three at the end of this year and next year I will complete my diploma. After I graduate I will be able to look for a job and Azarleigha will be ready to go to daycare. It’s so good being with other young mums, I’ve made lots of new friends. I had nothing before coming to STEMM. They help you so much with everything, even if you are struggling to get things for your child, they can help you. If you are in a position where you are young and having a baby with not much support, it’s a great option. 

Amanda Tidy-Russ, 25, Owner, Amanda Maree Images, with Mia, two and Bailey, nine

I was 15 and in Grade 11 at Burnside High School when I fell pregnant with my son Bailey. My partner was in the same grade and when we found out, it was the scariest time of our lives. We were worried about how our families and friends were going to react. I thought I would be labelled so I dropped out of school. During my pregnancy my mum found out about the STEMM program and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was great to be back at school with my friends who were so supportive and were able to visit me during lunch hours after Bailey was born. I was part of STEMM for three years. I didn’t want to leave! I loved it there. I did lots of courses and then decided I wanted to be a photographer, so I did my online course at STEMM and a lady would come in and help me with assignments. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them. I also got my driver’s licence through STEMM and they taught me how to look after my bub. I now have my own business and my partner and I are still together and have a daughter, Mia. The STEMM program proves that although life doesn’t always go to plan, you can still push through. It’s just the beginning. I  believe Bailey was born for a reason at that time, he was our blessing. 

Courses and programs available through STEMM 

Certificate II in Retail Makeup

Certificate III in Beauty Services
On completion students will be equipped with the basic beauty treatment skills necessary to work in a beauty salon or department store in a variety of beauty practices.
Diploma of Beauty Therapy
Designed as a high level qualification, on completion students will have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate as a beauty therapist, employing staff and managing a beauty salon.

Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
After completion of the qualification, students will be able to work with children in a range of settings, supporting their wellbeing, learning and development.
Tertiary Pathways Programs
The Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) equips you with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in undergraduate degree studies. TPP provides a pathway to a degree program.
Life Skills
Students have the opportunity to participate in art and craft, cooking, parenting classes, equine therapy, and undertake a first aid course.

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