How You're Raised, Greatly Determines Who You Become in Life

Room to Grow is a nonprofit organization that impacts the lives of families raising babies in poverty from newborn to age three. Our clinical social work team provides one-on-one parenting education and support, essential baby items, and connections to vital community resources to hundreds of families in need.

Two of our remarkable parents, Eva and Coleman, were recently recognized by Room to Grow for their strong commitment to highly effective parenting. Eva immigrated from the Dominican Republic with dreams of pursuing her education. While in New York, she met Coleman, and the couple joined the program when their daughter was born. When we asked them to reflect on their experience, Eva and Coleman described their personal and financial struggles, the power of the support they found at Room to Grow, and their determination to make a better life for their two-year-old daughter. Here's their story in their own words:

Eva: You're probably familiar with the saying "it takes a village to raise a child." Well, my original village is over fifteen hundred miles away in the Dominican Republic. With no real community here, it's particularly difficult for my husband and I to raise our daughter. Ten years ago, when I came to the United States to pursue an education, I never would have imagined that I was going to start a family in New York, not to mention having struggled so hard to support that family as well as my dreams of becoming a teacher.

Coleman: Well I'm from Richmond, Virginia. And if you had told me, back then, that I'd be married and raising a family in the South Bronx, I would have said "That's crazy!" But life can bring on the unexpected. Neither Eva nor I have help or emotional support from our families. So we are trying to create a completely different environment for our daughter than either of us had growing up.

Eva: How you're raised, greatly determines who you become in life. Growing up without the love and support of my parents and raised by friends and extended family, I lacked self-confidence and made a number of poor choices with intense consequences. The pain of my childhood made me determined to be a different kind of mother for my daughter. I made up my mind to be fully involved in her life, to nurture her development and growth by becoming knowledgeable -- and by loving her, no matter what the obstacles are.

Coleman: As a provider, it's difficult to speak about how your family has struggled. One thing I always think about is that if you and I were to meet each other in a different context, I hope that you might not even imagine the things we've endured; like living off rice and beans for a week or having to share one MetroCard between the two of us. I hope that you would see that our aspirations, our hard work, and our commitment to positive parenting are as much priorities for us as they are to any parent.

Eva: Room to Grow has been that source of support for us. The material resources they provide, like the books and toys, have been very helpful -- especially at the beginning when our daughter was a baby -- but it's the personal support that means the most to me. I like to research and read everything I can, yet, there are many things a book won't tell you about how to raise children. So it's been very comforting to have someone who really listens and then provides you with choices about what's best for your child in a supportive, respectful way.

Coleman: We've come a long way since we started with Room to Grow. I completed my college degree and Eva is now a teacher. We're able to raise our daughter together in a healthy, family environment. Sometimes it's still difficult to make ends meet, but things are improving one step at a time and now we're able to plan for the future. Room to Grow has been instrumental in that process, both in material support and in knowledge and friendship, -- they have given us the confidence to become supportive parents, and to make sure that the challenges we're facing don't burden our daughter's future.

Eva & Coleman: As a family, we're determined that our circumstances will not dictate our identity. We have infinite potential as parents, and it's exciting to know that we are providing for our daughter the life we wish we had growing up.

2016-02-16-1455642218-2442042-RoomtoGrow2.17.2016cropped.jpgCourtesy of Room to Grow / Credit: Amy Pinard Photography