Nia Samone Killens is an eighteen-year-old senior at Ralph J. Bunche Academy, and mother of thirteen month-old son, Rashad Junior.

Rita McKeon, Safe Passages’ AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer and Family Resource Center (FRC) Coordinator at Ralph Bunche, is highly impressed with Nia’s engagement in school activities and with her young family. Rita shares, “Nia is so tenacious, and makes succeeding her top priority to make sure her son does not have to struggle as she has.” She continues, saying, “I absolutely love Nia, and am so proud of her not only for being an amazing mother but for being an amazing student.”

While pregnant, Nia attended school every day up until she began the independent study at the start of her ninth month of pregnancy. Nia recalls, “I was on bed rest the entire last month of my pregnancy, so independent study was my only option. I never missed an assignment, and I am really proud to have maintained my spot on the Honor Roll.”

Rita and the FRC have connected Nia and her family to many trusted and affordable local programs, including services at the Oakland Public Library, the Oakland Tech Exchange, Bay Area Legal Aid, and the East Bay Community Law Center; in addition to groceries provided by the food pantry and donations of baby clothes and diapers. Nia adds, “I love Ms. Rita. I’ve received so much support from her and the FRC here at Bunche. She’s been especially helpful when it comes to housing information, and is trying to help me find Section 8 housing opportunities.”

Of Motherhood, Nia says, “it’s a constant balancing act between being a full-time mom and a full-time student.” She adds that she truly loves being a mom – “It’s like reliving childhood! And having a baby inspires us to get out and do so many activities because we want our son to experience everything.” Rashad Junior’s father is also a very involved parent and supportive partner and takes care of their son during the day so that Nia can attend school until she graduates on June 5th.

Nia’s immediate post-graduation goal is to find childcare for the baby and focus on obtaining employment. Rashad plans to return to school to receive his high school degree. Nia shares that “Rashad is excited to go back to school, but will miss seeing his son all day every day. He’s a very protective dad!”

In terms of her future and longer-term goals, Nia is starting a cosmetology course at Laney College in August, and is “really excited!”

When asked if she has any advice to offer other young mothers, Nia says: “Never give up, and always have a backup plan. Reach out to people in your family and the community for help – there are always services available to help you out; you just have to learn where to look and be willing to access them.”