‘I counted myself out’

Published 8:21 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moms graduate with plan for future

Aimee Cross gave up on herself when she got pregnant and had to drop out of college.

“I counted myself out,” she said. “I didn’t have a plan at all. Everybody is always faced with those questions — ‘What now?’ ‘What am I going to do?’”

She had her daughter, Taelor, when she was 20. She was a stay-at-home mother with no income or even a driver’s license.

Aimee Cross holds her daughter, Taelor, after they graduated from the Healthy Families program on Friday. Cross had to drop out of college when she got pregnant, but soon discovered she could still overcome her obstacles with the encouragement of the Healthy Families program.

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But then she found out about the Healthy Families program, which helps new parents navigate the first five years of their child’s life. Parents receive in-home visits from family support workers who teach parenting skills, monitor child development, help parents access resources and set goals, and provide other services.

Cross and her daughter graduated from the program along with six other families on Friday. Cross cried tears of joy as she told her story during the ceremony.

With the encouragement of her Healthy Families support worker, Cross graduated from pharmacy technician school with a 98 average, which made her the valedictorian of her class. She passed the board exam on her first try, landed a job and is on track to pay off her college loans this year. She also is set to return to college this fall, taking online classes.

Her daughter was toilet-trained before her second Christmas and now is able to tie her own shoes at the age of 3.

“I don’t have to ask myself, ‘What do I do now?’ because I know what’s next and how I’m going to get there,” she said. “Without [my support worker], I wouldn’t have had many opportunities, or I didn’t think I did.”

Healthy Families is a partnership of Sentara Obici Hospital, Obici Healthcare Foundation, the Virginia Department of Health and local governments.

Sonya Abbott of the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office was the keynote speaker for the graduation. She encouraged the mothers to continue overcoming their obstacles.

“It was not easy, and probably not always fun, but you did what you had to do to succeed,” she said. “Obstacles will come, but you can’t let them stop you. You need to believe in your incredible power to overcome any and all obstacles to succeed.”

Abbott named such issues as transportation, money, medical problems and bad relationships as obstacles that might get in the way.

“Now is not the time to say, ‘I’m finished,’” she said. “Today is for you to say, ‘What’s next?’”

Cross said the program helped her reach her goals and stay focused.

“Healthy Families really does make healthier families, and happier ones,” she said.

The other mothers and children who graduated from the program are:

  • Tenisha Bailey and Taziya Bailey
  • Chantez Chapman and De’Sean Freeman Jr.
  • Aimee Cross and Taelor Long
  • Jennifer Hudson and Hayden Goforth
  • Crystal Liverman and Daisy-Ann Liverman
  • Monica Savage and Raleigh Freeman III
  • Kimberly Shelton and twins TaeAndre and DeAndre Shelton

For more information on Healthy Families, call 514-4738.