Author Nicole Lynn Lewis (second from right) addressed teen parents during a Teen Parent Book Club meeting.

A little over a month after DCPS released its data on graduation rates, I found myself faced with another sobering statistic. Nationwide only 40% of teen mothers graduate from high school, and less than two percent go on to earn a college degree by the time they’re 30. Given the correlation between having a college degree and lifetime earning potential, that statistic is especially discouraging for young mothers looking to provide for their families.

“I saw that statistic and I knew it had to change,” author Nicole Lynn Lewis told a group of approximately 30 people gathered in a meeting of a teen parent book club on Tuesday afternoon. “I knew that I had to change it.”

At eighteen, after her college acceptance letters had trickled in, Nicole discovered she was pregnant. “I made a promise to myself that within one year I would be enrolled in college.” And she was. She graduated from the College of William and Mary four years later with a degree in English and went on to receive her Master’s degree from George Mason, which she chronicles in her memoir Glori: A Different Story.

“I was completely obsessed with getting my degree,” she told the students. Obsessed to the point that her now-husband nicknamed her “Iron Face” in college because she would come to campus each day with that goal in the forefront of her mind.

Since then, Nicole has written another book and founded a nonprofit called Generation Hope that provides financial advice and mentoring for young parents attending college in the DC area. The work that Nicole and Kendria Jackson, who discussed Generation Hope’s application process with the students, was also recently featured on the Steve Harvey Show.

The Teen Parent Book Club is a partnership between the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, the New Heights Teen Parents Center and DC Public Schools. The group meets bi-weekly to discuss books by local, contemporary authors. Read about previous sessions here. And for more information about Generation Hope, including a link to this year’s online application, visit their website.

— Ariel Martino