Biola Alumna starts nonprofit for teen moms in Southern California

Dianna Smiley dedicates her life to working with teen moms by starting her own non-profit.

Junior+Jessica+Dagen%2C+left%2C+discusses+the+best+ways+to+bond+with+newborns+during+Generation+Her%27s+%22Bonding+with+Baby%22+class+at+the+organization%27s+Fountain+Valley+site.+The+nonprofit+for+teen+moms+was+founded+by+Biola+alumna+Dianna+Smiley+in+2009.+%7C+Amber+Amaya%2FTHE+CHIMES
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Biola Alumna starts nonprofit for teen moms in Southern California

Junior Jessica Dagen, left, discusses the best ways to bond with newborns during Generation Her's

Junior Jessica Dagen, left, discusses the best ways to bond with newborns during Generation Her's "Bonding with Baby" class at the organization's Fountain Valley site. The nonprofit for teen moms was founded by Biola alumna Dianna Smiley in 2009. | Amber Amaya/THE CHIMES

Junior Jessica Dagen, left, discusses the best ways to bond with newborns during Generation Her's "Bonding with Baby" class at the organization's Fountain Valley site. The nonprofit for teen moms was founded by Biola alumna Dianna Smiley in 2009. | Amber Amaya/THE CHIMES

Junior Jessica Dagen, left, discusses the best ways to bond with newborns during Generation Her's "Bonding with Baby" class at the organization's Fountain Valley site. The nonprofit for teen moms was founded by Biola alumna Dianna Smiley in 2009. | Amber Amaya/THE CHIMES

Amber Amaya, Writer

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Brianna Joslyn, a Generation Her intern, facilitates get-to-know you games at the organization's Fountain Valley site on Feb. 26. It is a weekly tradition for Generation Her volunteers and teen moms to share their highs and lows with each other before every class. | Amber Amaya/THE CHIMES

 

After graduating from Biola with a degree in Christian education and serving in youth ministry for over eight years, Dianna Smiley sold everything she owned and redirected her life to work with teen moms in Southern California. In 2009, Smiley started Generation Her, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and training teen moms.

SUPPORTING TEEN MOMS 

“Teen moms have always been on my heart,” Smiley said. “I started researching what I could do [with teen moms], but I wasn’t a teacher, I wasn’t a social worker and I wasn’t a nurse. But I just kept praying because I felt like I was supposed to work with teen moms.”

Smiley said she felt the Lord was leading her to create a relevant support group for young moms. Though the calling seemed daunting at the time, Smiley said she knew God would direct her vision for a nonprofit organization.

For the month of March, Generation Her is partnering with Biola to host a drive to collect baby supplies. In April, the organization is partnering with Ruby Women, Biola’s women-only philanthropy group, for a serve day and an Easter egg hunt. This year, Generation Her is also Lush’s Charity Pot partner. Items from the drive will be distributed during Generation Her’s weekly meetings.

Jessica Dagen, a junior Christian ministries major, discusses the best ways to bond with newborns during Generation Her's Bonding with Baby class on Feb. 26. | Amber Amaya/THE CHIMES

 

CREATING A SAFE PLACE 

The meetings provide a safe place for the girls to gather and feel understood by their peers, Smiley said.

“They come and they’re scared or insecure sometimes, then in a couple of months they are friends with the other girls and with the mentors,” Smiley said. “They realize that there is somebody on their side who’s going to love them and their baby. They’re happy to be [at the meetings] and they’re happy to be moms.”

The non-profit not only provides teen moms with basic items and skills needed to care for their babies, but the organization goes a step further and invests in the personal lives of the girls. Volunteers at the Generation Her sites are paired with teen moms and act as semester-long mentors.

Carly Lind, a graduate student at Biola’s Rosemead School of Psychology, spent two years mentoring young moms while earning a psychology degree from Biola. Lind said she enjoyed encouraging the girls and being a supportive friend through the moms’ pregnancies.

But Lind said she too grew from the mentoring experience.

“I was so impressed by their skills,” she said. “I would not know how to be a mom at that age. The girls’ perspectives of their situations made them who they are, and their ability to thrive throughout that was encouraging to me.”

FORMING LASTING RELATIONSHIPS 

Mentors and moms are encouraged to form lasting relationships outside of Generation Her. When the teen moms turn 20 and age out of the program, they are invited to stay in contact and even serve with the organization.

Brianna Joslyn, who was one of the first moms to participate in Generation Her, now works with Smiley as an intern for the Fountain Valley location. Joslyn said she feels honored to support other teen moms in the program.

“It’s nice to have friends who are going through the same things you are,” Joslyn said. “If other girls have gone through the same things I have, I can help them because I’ve been through it.”

Joslyn is just one of several teen moms who have gone through the program and now are investing back in the organization that initially invested in them.

Smiley’s five-year plan for the organization included opening two sites, but only two years after it’s inaugural meeting, Generation Her grew to five active locations in Pasadena, Pomona, Bell Gardens, Montebello and Fountain Valley. Now Smiley has her sights set on Los Angeles.

“Every week I get a call from a mom in L.A. saying, ‘I want to go to Generation Her. Where is the closest one?’” Smiley said. Because the Pasadena location is the closest site to Los Angeles, Smiley said the trip is impractical for teen mothers. “It’s an hour and a half by bus, so it’s just out of their reach. I’d like to start a centralized L.A. site next. I feel like that would be our biggest site yet.”
 

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Biola Alumna starts nonprofit for teen moms in Southern California