ACHIEVING MILESTONES TOGETHER

Ciera's story

As Ciera Viera begins college, she reflects on her experience as a teenage mother and how she got through her high school years with a baby.

“I’m not saying it was easy at all, because it wasn’t.”

Ciera had her son Jayceon, also known as Jay, at the age of 15. She was a high school freshman.

Now 3-years-old, Jay recently aged out of United Way’s Early Head Start program. Early Head Start is a federal to local program that provides child-development and family-centered services.

United Way manages this complex program, which serves families from New Haven, West Haven, and Hamden. Using local dollars to leverage federal funds, United Way works with local partners to meet a high priority need in our community.

Not only has the program helped Jay, but it has also helped Ciera.

Young mothers are often faced with the decision of withdrawing from school to care for their child, but Ciera wanted to graduate.

And thanks to the support of United Way donors, she did! Ciera is starting her first semester of college, with ambitions of becoming a teacher.

The experience meant more than having someone watch Jay while she earned her high school diploma. She saw him achieve milestones and watched as he developed his ability to think, learn, speak and reason.

“I didn’t make it about myself. It wasn’t about me.”

While Ciera’s concern was for her son, Early Head Start’s focus is on the family as a whole. The center provided Ciera with a family advocate who supported her in checking on her grades, and through the college application process.

United Way works to ensure all students succeed in school and are ready for college and career. We also want all children to enter school well-prepared.

As Jay and Ciera both start new chapters—preschool for Jay and college for Ciera—their story is a reminder that caring support makes all the difference.

The experience meant more than having someone watch Jay while she earned her high school diploma. She saw him achieve milestones and watched as he developed his ability to think, learn, speak and reason.