Hoops for Youth
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May 6, 2015

Dear Cornerstone Family, 

This past Saturday, as I was sipping my coffee and reviewing my stock portfolio in the Wall Street Journal (OK, the stock portfolio part is made up), I was pleased to see an article by Stephen Moore highlighting the importance of the work Cornerstone is doing in one of the neediest neighborhoods of the city. Mr. Moore's belief is that education, especially the kind of rigorous, faith based education provided by Cornerstone, is critical in stemming the episodes of racial tension we are seeing in Baltimore, Ferguson and other urban areas.  

The entire article can be read by clicking the image above (if you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal).  I have quoted the relevant portion on Cornerstone below:

"I decided to pull my son out of [public school] one day when he came home from school beaten up with a bloody nose and no one in the school showed any concern."  While most affluent and middle-class parents worry if their children will make the travel soccer team, or whether the local school is good enough to get their child into a top university, these poor parents worry every day whether their children will come home safely...Ms. White's son Michael, who is 17, has attended Cornerstone School, a Christian Academy, since the third grade.  The teachers soon discovered that he is a math prodigy and put him in special programs so he could excel.

Ms. White believes that beyond the improved academic standards, a big plus with Cornerstone was a curriculum the public schools won't touch: "Character Development." These religious schools try to instill basic values like integrity, honesty, hard work and smart behavior like not getting pregnant before marriage.  The students are required to wear uniforms, a rule that she believes is "tremendously important to develop respect."

Oh, and by the way: Michael scored so high on his college-board tests that he was just contacted by Harvard and MIT, encouraging him to apply.  (emphasis added)

I may not have a stock portfolio worth analyzing in the Wall Street Journal while sipping my Saturday coffee, but I have no doubt that God is blessing the investment of time, money and prayers that so many people have poured into students like Michael at Cornerstone.  This is a portfolio like no other, one that will pay dividends well into eternity.

In His Service, 


Derrick Max 
Executive Director 
dmax@cornerstone-schools.org 
202-575-0027 Ext. 104


May 1, 2015

Dear Cornerstone Family, 

It always strikes the new students first: "Wait, Mr. Max, do we really have school on Saturday?" Most are sure their teachers are playing some masterful trick on them and have found a way to get their parents to play along with this "Saturday School" prank! My reply is usually the same: "Yes, we have school Saturday, and I can't wait to see your parents." At this point the questioner usually walks away, forehead scrunched, as they ponder two things: Is Principal Max serious? And if he is serious, what have I done wrong that they are going to tell my parents?

Last Saturday, the doors of Cornerstone were open, the halls were buzzing, and our classrooms were filled with parents and students sitting through lectures, reading the classics, working out Algebra problems together, doing the Kindergarten morning routines, and trying to navigate crowded hallways in time to make it to their next class without getting lost. Twice a year, we close school on a Monday and open on Saturday to give parents the opportunity to see their Cornerstone students in action without taking a day off of work.

As I walked from room to room, I was struck by the joy on the students' faces as they sat with their parents and watched them struggle with some of the material. I listened in as teachers explained lesson plans and gave tips on helping their children with homework. I watched parents meeting other parents -- most reconnecting, a few reconciling -- but all sharing in the excitement of being a part of their child's education. It is fantastic that one of our biggest challenges with Saturday School is getting parents to leave when Saturday School is over!

I also loved the number of parents who took the opportunity to pull me aside to sing the praises of their child's teacher, to compliment our administrative staff, or to give encouraging stories about the progress they see in their children. And while I am not a masochist, I loved that the parents with concerns or complaints felt empowered to share those concerns and left knowing they were "heard."

So yes, Cornerstone will continue to have school on Saturday, and no, I do not use it as an opportunity to dish dirt on students that may have graced my office during the week. Instead, I view it as a time to continue building and investing in the lives of our students, their parents and our staff as we work together to do God's will. But, let's be clear, twice a year is enough!

God bless,


Derrick Max 
Executive Director 
dmax@cornerstone-schools.org 
202-575-0027 Ext. 104


April 17, 2015

Dear Cornerstone Family, 

While many people spent their spring break at the beach or knocking out their "honey do" lists at home, Cornerstone took a handful of its students to Liberty University to be college students for a weekend. From Thursday through Saturday, our students experienced college life: dirty dorm rooms, crowded bathrooms, questionable cafeteria food, college classes, chapel, college sports and a healthy dose of walking, walking and more walking.

All of our students were able to find classes that fit their interests. One student, who has already published a collection of short stories, was able to sit in on a screenwriting class. A couple of students who are interested in criminal justice got to sit in on a criminal psychology class -- and even got to see students take a lie detector test. Another student sat in on some advanced math classes that I wouldn't even begin to be able to describe. In all, each student attended two classes in their area of interest.

Beyond academics, the Cornerstone students got to hear great music from Shane and Shane, a powerful message from Matt Chandler on the blessings of suffering, watch a Division I baseball game followed by a fireworks display, and even got to tube down Liberty's Snowflex Mountain (admittedly, not a typical college offering). Their culinary experience included sampling a little bit from literally every food station at the college's main cafeteria (yes, one student's tray had syrup drenched french toast, paired with a grilled cheese, a kielbasa hot dog, two pieces of pizza and a side of ice cream with some concoction of various fountain drinks at the ready -- and that was before he got seconds!).

A few things stood out to me this weekend: First, our Cornerstone students really are like a family -- they watch out for each other, share in each other's excitement and exude a brotherly love for one for another. Second, our students loved the classes they visited. In fact, for most of them, it was one of their favorite highlights of the weekend. Finally, and for me, most importantly, I loved to hear our students discuss and even wrestle with the Convocation message on "Moral Deism Versus Having a Passionate Relationship with Christ." As we drove away from the convocation, and the students' conversation began to wander to different topics, I was touched to hear one of them bring it back up saying "Wait, am I the only one here still wrestling with that awesome message we just heard?"

Like a nervous parent, I watched as the students went off to classes and their dorm rooms. I worried about whether we were doing enough at Cornerstone to prepare them for what lies ahead. I prayed about the many obstacles and distractions that could so easily tempt these beautiful children away from the faith we have carefully woven into their education and their lives. Then I prayed a prayer I am guessing hundreds of other parents were praying that weekend, and millions of parents must pray every year as they drop their kids off at college: "Lord, let your will be done!" As I face the daunting task of shepherding these young men and women into adulthood, that is the only prayer that gives me peace.

God bless,


Derrick Max 
Executive Director 
dmax@cornerstone-schools.org 
202-575-0027 Ext. 104


HOOPS FOR YOUTH FOUNDATION CONTINUES TO REMEMBER THE LATE JERRIS LEONARD, AN ESTEEMED PUBLIC SERVANT, COLLEAGUE, FRIEND AND ROLE MODEL

Fairfax, VA – The Hoops for Youth Foundation (HFYF) Chairman, Paul Miller, announced today that the Foundation’s Hill Day for Youth program which educates at-risk, young men from the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) about their First Amendment Rights is being named in honor of the late Jerris Leonard.  Miller says that “dedicating this program to Jerris continues his life-long commitment to organizations such as HFYF which provide financial support to partners like WJA which addresses the cycle of poverty that plagues local students’ communities through an education model that replaces it with a cycle of hope, determination and success.”

Jerris’ daughter, Kate Leonard, who Chairs the Hill Day for Youth, said “this honor speaks to her father’s long held belief that education is of the utmost importance to breaking down the challenges of poverty.  While Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the United States serving under President Nixon, I remember my father often saying, ‘You can give people equal rights, but if you don’t also give them equal access to education then you’re stopping short of the goal as education is the key to helping people beat the barriers of poverty.’  I believe that my father’s experience overseeing the federal government’s desegregation of schools while he was Assistant Attorney General deepened his view that equal access to education was the most important way to truly give children a chance at releasing the ruthless grips of poverty for a better life.” 

Jerris along with his wife Mariellen and six children moved to Washington DC in 1969 from his beloved home of Wisconsin where he served 12 years in the State Legislature and became Senate Majority Leader.  He would then be appointed by President Nixon and confirmed by the US Senate as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.  After his dedicated career in public service, Jerris moved into the private sector practicing law and lobbying where he argued 5 cases before the US Supreme Court and represented many notable clients such as Mohammed Ali, the Estate of Howard Hughes and President George H.W. Bush when he was Chairman of the RNC.  Upon his death, Jerris was the Chairman of the Leonard Group culminating nearly a 40 year career in both the public and private sectors.  Over the years, Jerris was recognized by his peers receiving many awards and honors, including ALL’s Capital Award for Outstanding Contributions to the League, the Lifetime Achievement Award from his Alma Mater, Marquette University Law School, the Belle Case LaFollette Outstanding Professional Award from the Wisconsin Law Foundation and from the State Bar of Wisconsin Nonresident Lawyers Division.

Despite all of Jerris’ professional successes, on a personal level he never lost his well-grounded, mid-western roots and the importance of his faith, family and country.  At the time of his death, his good friend, former US Congressman Ralph Hall of TX, paid tribute to Jerris on the floor of the US House of Representatives echoing what many people believed “Jerris was a true statesman who made friends on both sides of the political aisle.  His friendships extended well beyond the realm of politics and career, however.  He made friends in all walks of life.  It is impossible to fully grasp the breadth and depth of a life of someone like Jerris, who gave every project or responsibility his very best effort and who lived his life with boundless enthusiasm and compassion.  He was a role model and mentor to so many and he leaves a powerful legacy that will last for generations to come.  As we adjourn today, let us do so in tribute to this great American, dedicated public servant and truly great man, Jerris Leonard.”

“Jerris Leonard was a brilliant man who never forgot where he came from.  He was larger than life because of his commitment to family and community.  I will never forget his willingness to mentor me when I was coming up.  I am so pleased to announce that our Hill day efforts have been officially renamed THE JERRIS LEONARD HILL DAY FOR YOUTH.  Today we ensure that generations will learn about a man who helped pave the way for their future” Miller added.


My name is Victoria Scheinman, I am nineteen years old and have a four month old beautiful little boy named Jacob. I am a program participant in the Healthy Babies Project - Teen Parent Empowerment Program and a DC resident.

I want to share today how I have benefitted from funding sources like the Hoops for Youth Foundation. Through this program, I have learned so much that I didn't know about being a parent and ways to strengthen my family. I applaud their work and appreciate their investment in me and other young parents like myself. This is my story ..

I currently live at the Healthy Babies Project - Perennial Transitional Housing Program for Women & Children with my son, Jacob Scheinman and participate weekly in the parenting and life skills classes.

My story is painful and heartbreaking but I wouldn't have changed anything about it because, I have my son with me now. He's my goal to do better. I have so many goals and I don't want to feel sorry for myself. I want to get a GED and after that go to college and get a job. I want the best for myself and my son. I don't want to feel like I have to rely on others and see them, just disappoint me. I am a single mother and I just want to be a good mother to my child and raise him to be a leader and not a follower. Jacob's father is not in the picture so I have to do everything by myself and if someone else is a single mother they know how it feels to not have help. I don't want my son to grow up like I did. I was born in Ukraine and my parents didn't care much for me. My mother gave me to a shelter when I was 5 years old. I guess for a better life, I had to go through all of the bad to get my better life. I was adopted when I was 10years old and because I knew of my parents and always felt like I would be going back to them. I took everything for granted and I gave my adopted mother a hard time about everything and tried to always not listen. When I turned 16years old, I went to foster care because my mother couldn't take care of me or felt like I was too much to handle. When I was 17 a few months away from being 18... I found out I was pregnant with my son. When I asked my partner what he wanted to do about the child he told me he wanted it and I was so happy to hear that and I thought as long as I had him by my side I'll be fine. Everyone was telling me, that I wasn't ready for a child and that I, I was still a child and I agree.

Giving birth to my son changed me in many ways. I stopped acting like I was a child and I started to think about my child and learned how to put someone before myself. This was really hard but when he first came out and I was holding him, it wasn't hard to let go of all the bad that had happened to me.... And forgive everyone! I forgive so many people for all the bad things I went through or what they made me go through...I know at that time that, I wasn't ever going to be alone again. I was trying so hard to find my family but Jacob is my family and after I had him, I stop wanting my folks so much or thinking that they would magically appear and take me home. When I was 16, I made my adopted mother go through a lot and now that I am older and I am a mother myself I see the things she always told me were true. She used to tell me, someday you thank me for all the things I did for you and she's right. She might not be in my life at this time or in the future but I still remember all the things she used to stress about. She was a great mother at times, and other times I made her overwhelmed by my actions. I don't ever want to never give up on my child like everyone gave up on me. I want my son to come to me for anything. I want to go through everything with him.

In spite of my hardships and past, I am learning important skills everyday on how to be a good mother and I love it. It's something about seeing your child smile at you that melts your heart and makes you want to just do anything for him. I feel empowered by the education I have received and relieved that I understand the importance of parenting and developing a loving and nurturing bond with my son. This is exciting and a new beginning for us both.
I am very appreciative of the services provided by the Healthy Babies Project and the funding from the Hoops for Youth foundation that makes it possible. Thank you for making a difference in my life so that I can make a difference and be the best parent for Jacob.


My name is Tyesha Shank, I am twenty three years old and have a two year old son named Ma'Khari. I am a program participant in the Healthy Babies Project - Teen Parent Empowerment Program and a DC resident.

I would like to share my experience in the TPEP program; as well as talk briefly about how the parent education and home visitation aspect of the program helped and impacted me as a young parent. In June 2012, when I found myself four months pregnant, I was at a loss and wasn't sure where to turn. When I was younger, my mom wasn't really a mom and I didn't really have a role model for parenting, and I knew I didn't want to be the mom that she was … and I was really nervous.

At four months pregnant and homeless, I had also recently lost my job working at Safeway as a Courtesy Clerk & Assistant to the Master Baker. I was confused and had some support from my family. At the time, my youngest brother was attending the daycare located in the same facility as Healthy Babies Project and so I thought it might be a good idea to learn more about their services and programs.

From the onset, the staff was very nice and respectful. They also seemed to be very interested in me and the well-being of my unborn child. I nervously signed up for the program not sure what to expect. I was then introduced to my HBP Family Support Worker who explained the HBP services and home visitation. This was hard for me to understand since at the time I didn't have a permanent place to call home. My family support worker was extremely patient and always willing to work with me and my situation.

She helped me to develop a family action plan which outlined the things I wanted to work on while in the program. At the top of my list was housing followed by employment and education. She and I began seeking housing resources so that things would be in place before the baby arrived in November 2012.

To my surprise, my son had his own plan and decided to make his debut 14 weeks early (August 2012). My son Ma'Khari was born at 26 weeks and three days and weighed only 2 pounds / .2 ounces / 13 inches. He was so tiny and fragile. In spite of him being premature, I was happy and excited that he was small but okay. However, the pressure was building at this point not only was I dealing with the economic pressures of not having a job and money to support my son or a stable place to live which was essential due to his health challenges. I had a child with a medical crisis and no experience with a premature babies. This was a crucial time in my life - my baby was sick and needed so many resources that I didn't know about or how to navigate my way through the system.  But I was able to figure it out through my own research and speaking various case managers.

It was during this time the HBP Family Support Worker would visit me in my home which happened to be the various hospitals and shelters where I was staying (i.e. United Medical Center, Children's Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital, Hospital for Sick Children, DC General Shelter) or where I am currently living the New Beginnings Shelter for Families. I was appreciative of the education, flexibility and all the resources (housing, education and empowerment) provided by the program - it truly made a difference in my life and the life of my son. My son and I now have a support network of people who really unconditionally care about the well-being of me and my son.

The program is phenomenal, and my relationship has spanned almost three years - my first visit with the HBP Family Support Worker took place when I was only 20 weeks pregnant, and the visits have continued for these two years. Ma'Khari is an amazing big guy who is now thriving in spite of being a preemie at birth. As a parent, I am more confident and feel empowered and smarter as a single parent raising my son.

My relationship with the Healthy Babies Project - Family Support Worker still exists and continues to include home visits and education with focus on the practical matters of mothering—parenting and family strengthening —the program also fed my dreams of a getting a better job and continuing my education. Today, I am proud to say that after attending and graduating from the program (both Phase 1 & 2), I am currently working part-time as one of two HBP Peer Facilitators, I am honored to be able to travel throughout the city to various schools speaking with and hopefully empowering other young parents like myself about the challenges and joys of parenting. I also share tools and strategies for a concept that we call empathic parenting (or E-Parenting) that really make a difference. I am fulfilled to know that I am doing my part to make life better for my son and our community. I strongly believe that it really does takes a village to raise a child and so happy that HBP is part of my village!


DC City Council Testimony

My name is Nyla Roy. I became pregnant with my child at the age of 15 and at the age of 16 I gave birth to a boy who I named Tyshawn. I had gave birth to my son on the first day of senior year and began my parenting journey in the 12th grade of high school. Once I went back to high school I was enrolled in to the New Heights program for teen parents. Through New Heights I took parenting classes with Healthy Babies project. Once I graduated from high school. I was still trying to find my way as a young person. One day as I was taking my son in for a doctors appointment at the family health and birthing center I see the program manager and decided to check the parenting classes out again. After that day I became even more involved in healthy babies and the well being of my self and child. Healthy babies gives us young moms the space and opportunity to express our self and the life situations that we go through. Then they help us to navigate through it effectively . They provide an opportunity to allow us to become better parents, and to become a better person. What I found the most that healthy babies has helped me with is helping me not to forget about myself and constantly reminding me that to become a better parent that I have to first become a better person, a better me. I feel as though healthy babies is vital to our community because we in WARD 7 and 8 the numbers for teen pregnancy is still high. Meaning that programs such as healthy babies is crucial. I believe that if we all as a Community, as a whole want better for our selves and our economy that we will ensure that every one has the same opportunities and resources from their community.


I am Martina Gill and I am 21 years old. I have a six months old son who was  conceived during one of the lowest points in my life. At the age of 15, I was introduced to drugs and a boyfriend who could care less for my being but more for my potential to make him money. I did not have a strong support system from my family so when it came to him, I found myself doing whatever he asked of me in order to maintain our relationship. I experimented and became addicted to PCP, I sold my body, and I allowed him to physically and mentally treat me like I was nothing. I reached a point in which I was not myself and my family members began to disown me.

Through all of my misfortune, God continued to watch over me and protect me with each day. Though overwhelming, I was blessed with my son, jelani, at the age of 20. I began attending happiness groups once I discovered I was pregnant to help kick my PCP and marijuana usage in order for me to have a healthy pregnancy. I struggled greatly with the responsibility of being a single mother; I felt extremely alone. With my pregnancy, my family began supporting me as much as possible and I was able to reunite with them and live under the same roof. While I wish our relationship was better, it still feels good to be around them and watch my son bond with his grandmother, cousin, aunts, and uncle.

I look mostly to Healthy Babies Project for support because their I never feel judged. I never feel like I'm being used or unappreciated. I receive guidance and emotional support from my family support worker not just with my constant worries of being a first time mother but also with rebuilding myself. My support worker listens to me whenever I need to talk about a situation, problem, or concern. She visits me and transports me to places to make sure I am able to get things done.

It was one situation that sticks out greatly to me which is when I got in a fight with my sister and my mother kicked me out of the house. My son and I were able to stay with a friend for the first night but afterwards, I had no place to go. I reached out to my family support worker and she was able to arrange for me and my son to be housed in the transitional home at Healthy Babies Project for the weekend. Within that weekend, I was able to recollect myself and reconcile with my mother in order to return home. I was so grateful to receive the support in my time of need and that everyone at Healthy Babies Project were so welcoming and understanding in my crisis.

There are so many times when I've been helped and supported through Healthy Babies Project and with every day, I know the support is there and continues to grow stronger. I am still facing many challenges in my life in regards to self and parenthood, but I know it is not the end for me. The best is soon to come, and I will continue I achieving the goals that I have set out for myself. I want to obtain my high school diploma/GED certification, finding childcare for my son, and bettering myself emotionally and physically. My family support worker helps me navigate all of those things. I attend therapist appointments and I receive treatment for Bipolar disorder and my depression through Anchor Mental Health. I am also researching child friendly substance abuse programs in DC to support with my addiction based on a recent relapse I had almost a month ago. It was a onetime relapse, but I know the possibilities of going back to using.

I want my son to be proud of me and I never want him to remember me as a drug addict or someone without drive and motivation. My son is everything to me and a true blessing because he is my opportunity to turn my life around and to become the person I was meant to be. With the continued guidance and support of Healthy Babies Project, I know I will get there and be Martina Gill, a successful, single mother to Jelani who is happy with herself and proud of the life she lives.


My name is Dakota Crews I came to HBP at the age of seventeen when I was pregnant. My life wasn't so peaches and cream. I witnessed alot of crime, drugs and violence in my 23 years. I had to raise myself and my sisters because I did not have active parents in my life. When I was 12yrs old, my little brother died spontaneously from SIDS. Shortly after his death, I started using illegal drugs more, drinking and sleeping with random people. Sleeping with random people graduated to prostitution. In 2005, my mother's boyfriend at that time, started sexually abusing me. In mid summer of 2005, I was admitted into Children's Hospital Psychiatric Unit. After all the unimaginable things that happened, I lost hope in myself so I decided to drop out of school because at that point I felt like I had nothing to live for. When I was 17yrs old I decided I didn't want to go back home because of my stepfather so I started sleeping in my car with my boyfriend. Sometime after, I became pregnant with my daughter Yeternity. My therapist referred me to healthy babies in 2008.  HBP was a good source of keeping me out of trouble, they taught me a lot in the parenting class especially about how to deal with an infant and to cope with SIDS, yoga, and I learned how to perform baby and adult CPR.. I worked with the whole team at HBP and received homevisits from my caseworker. HBP helped change my life by providing me with housing assistance, asking me about my daily life and what goes on, and gave me the motherly love that I needed. During homevisits the nurse checked on my vital signs and my family support worker helped me navigate through baby care basics and beyond. In 2009, I completed my GED. HBP provided me with things that I could not get (i.e pampers, wipes, car seat, and even food). I am telling you how important this program is because of my experience this program provided so much help to young women in a loving way even after they finish the program. I graduated from the TPEP program in 2009 and repeatedly came back to learn more. They always listen to me and are the mother I never had. I would trust them with my own children and refer to them as "Ma". HBP helps me to stay on track and focus on my dreams/my children. Here's my testimony of my life and I am still working on things since anger is a big issue for me. There are young females out here that are living the same things that I have experienced but maybe worse and they remain invisible. I made it through and am now a student in my third year at CCDC of UDC. Even though the deck may not have been on my side but God has a greater plan for me and it is happening. In 2011 My stepfather died and I had a mixture of emotions especially around the funeral time. I did not know whether to be angry, upset, sad, or hurt. I went to the funeral and while I kept the appearance of strength inside me I felt nothing but pain. Do you know as they were taking him from the house that I bent down towards his ear and whispered "I forgive you". Forgiveness means moving forward for me and coming to terms with what was. The staff came to support me at the funeral and I'm grateful. I'm truly proud of my accomplishments so far and plan to write a book in the future to share my story so that other young girls who feel invisible can find the strength to speak out.

I'm thankful for everyone here down to the founder who purchased my books the first semester for school and the sponsors who adopt my family during the Christmas holidays through HBP. I am thankful to get phonecalls from the staff even though I am no longer in the program to see how I am doing and progressing along. I am thankful for them pushing me to get my daughter into Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School where she is in the French immersion program. Healthy Babies Project has motivated me to see the importance of "Education being the most powerful weapon to change my world and the future of my children's." Remember me, remember the children, remember my story, and remember teens like me. Remember


Healthy Babies Project, Inc.
Regine Elie, Executive Director

Testimony for the D.C. Council Committee on Health and Human Services
March 5, 2015

Thank you, Chairwoman Alexander and members of the Committee on Health and Human Services, for the opportunity to testify to the Council on behalf of Healthy Babies Project. My name is Regine Elie. I am the  Executive Director for the Healthy Babies Project, located in Ward 7.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Healthy Babies Project has been at the forefront in connecting high-risk, underserved, pregnant D.C. teen mothers to health care, social services, and educational opportunities. Residents like Dakota. At 17 years old, Dakota escaped a home where she was sexually abused, only to eventually live on the streets and support herself through prostitution. When she became pregnant, a case worker referred her to Healthy Babies Project. We worked with Dakota to ensure that she received quality medical care, parenting classes, baby care classes, and that she had basic life necessities - good food, clothing, diapers, and a safe, stable place to live. Dakota went on to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. She continued to seek our help in order to obtain her GED, enroll in college, and find independent housing. She recently told us, "Healthy Babies Project changed my life. Had it not been for its case managers, I would still be in my former life." Dakota's life and the lives of her children are forever transformed.

Dakota's story isnot unique to the challenges facing many teen mothers in the District. However, unlike many of teen mothers in DC, Dakota's story is promising because she was able to find a solution - and that solution was Healthy Babies Project.

Dakota's story reminds us of Healthy Babies Project's two-fold impact to this community: (1) we help pregnant at-risk D.C. residents have healthy babies and (2) we equip pregnant at-risk D.C. residents have future-filled lives.

Healthy Babies Project has played a key role in reducing infant mortality rates and low birth weight rates in our nation's capital, which at our founding were as bad or worse than many counterpart rates in the Third World. Today, our groundbreaking, comprehensive support system has become a model program providing an unprecedented combination of services for at-risk, pregnant women and their children that ensure healthy birth outcomes. Because we offer one-on-one support and housing, our clients and their babies have a greater chance of surviving and thriving. Recent statistics prove our impact and effectiveness. The average infant mortality rate among HBP clients is about 1/3 of that reported for the District of Columbia and 29% better than the national average. Our clients have 54% fewer low birth weight babies than other delivering mothers in the District of Columbia. Our program produces results - and those results are healthy babies.

And secondly but even more importantly, we equip our clients to have future-filled lives where once they could only envision despair.  Our impact can be seen in the eyes of the teen mothers with whom we work - mothers like Tyesha, who came to us when she was four months' pregnant, homeless, and had recently lost her job. Today, she and her son are living in transitional housing and she is employed. Their future looks bright. Or take Martina, who became addicted to PCP, sold her body, and allowed her boyfriend to physically and mentally abuse her. Healthy Babies Project helped Martina get substance abuse counseling so she could have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

We are deeply grateful for partners who have supported this vital work with D.C. teenagers, like the Child and Family Services Agency, Division of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, Hoops for Youth Foundation, United Planning Organization, and Mr. Lamell McMorris, who have provided generous funding to allow us to continue to work to save and transform D.C. lives. These organizations recognize that Healthy Babies Project's work is vital to the District - both in ensuring that babies born here have a healthy, strong start, but also in that their mothers, fathers, and families are equipped to move into future-filled lives with education, job training, and housing support.

So many homeless teen mothers and their babies grow up in D.C.'s most impoverished and violent neighborhoods. Odds are stacked that their birth outcomes will not be strong and their lives will lack health and productivity. But this need not be the case. Healthy Babies Project is here to help. We have demonstrated over and over that when an underserved pregnant D.C. woman is exposed to loving, caring support combined with intensive comprehensive health care, counseling, educational and vocational training, safe, stable housing, and other social services, she overwhelmingly chooses to build strong relationships and skills to sustain long-lasting life change for her and her children.

I know that health and life change is what you desire for these underserved residents of the District. We deeply appreciate the invitation to share with you today how Healthy Babies Project has changed lives in the District - and how we can continue to change even more lives with your support. That is why I urge you today to support Healthy Babies Project as generously as you can. The future of this city and its citizens depends upon it. Thank you very much.


Dear Cornerstone Family,

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to my Proverbs' class the meaning of Proverbs 17:3, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart." God, our great Refiner, uses the "fires" of trials and tribulations to rid us of the dross, or impurities, in our lives, in order to refine each of us like gold, to make us a better reflection of Christ--the true Refiner.

I instructed my students to write about a trial or circumstance in their lives that refined them and made them stronger. While they prepared their work, I shared the story of two students who were in my office the previous day. When one student pulled out his lunch and began to eat his sandwich, the other student noticed that the "sandwich" he was eating was really just two pieces of Wonder Bread pressed together. She commented, "Hey, that isn't a sandwich without something between the bread!" The student looked at her and said, "My mom didn't have anything to put on the bread when she made this, but that is okay because I love Wonder Bread."

The classroom was silent as I pressed the students to think of the lessons this student with the Wonder Bread sandwich might have learned from not having anything between the bread. Finally, one student remarked, "Mr. Max, that is just so sad." As the class ended, I asked them to be vulnerable and really ponder how they have been refined by the experiences they have faced and survived. (Knowing most of their stories, I was curious to see what lessons they might attach to their own trials.)

The next day, two students came up to me separately and handed me lunch bags, both with the same message: "Mr. Max, please put this in your fridge, and if that kid ever needs lunch again, give him this." One was offering me his lunch, while the other had managed to get an extra lunch made by her mother. Most humbling to me was that I know neither of these students can afford an extra lunch. Both had placed the need of another above their own.

Could there be a greater "reflection" of God in our students' lives than to see them sacrifice for others? Jesus said, "I am the bread and the life." On that day, our God, the Bread of Life, used two bits of Wonder Bread to reflect His character in the hearts of our students.

In His service,

Derrick Max
Executive Director
dmax@cornerstone-schools.org
202-575-0027 Ext. 104

 

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