Partner Spotlight: Middle Tyger Community Center
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
At the SC Campaign, we often discuss the link between the state’s high school drop-out rate and teen pregnancy. Dialogue is great, but partnering with organizations that are actively doing something about it is even better. Middle Tyger Community Center (MTCC) in Lyman, SC is one of such organizations.
In 1996, a school nurse was so alarmed by the number of young women dropping out of high school in the area due to teen pregnancy, she went before community leaders to express her concerns. From there, a grant provided by the Mary Black Foundation through Spartanburg School District Five gave birth to Middle Tyger Community Center in 1998. Since then, the organization has become a staple within the Spartanburg community.
Offering a range of programs, Middle Tyger takes a holistic approach when providing comprehensive health services to pregnant and parenting teens. How many organizations can you think of that provide early childhood education, one-on-one counseling, on-site health care, and an emergency pantry service? Middle Tyger offers these services and more for teens who are at a high risk for dropping out of school and ending their education due to an unexpected pregnancy.
Tina Gaudiano, Program Director at Middle Tyger, says there are a few reasons why their programs have been so effective. Having worked for the organization since 2000, she is well aware of what has contributed to Middle Tyger’s success. The first component being “adaptation.” “Middle Tyger was started with the vision of keeping adolescent moms from dropping out at our local high school[..] it didn’t take us long to recognize their needs were so varied,” said Gaudiano. “It took more than high quality early childhood education […] it took a whole host of other types of support. We have adjusted our program over the years several times and added things that were really important to serve this population.”
Gaudiano also recognizes keeping a “model mindset” as a reason for continued success. “We like to be a leader and we like to forge the pathway for programs that can serve as models for other people serving this population,” says Gaudiano. In the spirit of innovation, Gaudiano also cites taking their knowledge statewide and nationally as a reason for the organization’s progress.
Maintaining a strong bond between case managers and clients has also been a crucial component of Middle Tyger’s recipe. Open, honest conversations and one-on-one mentoring helps put young mothers in the driver’s seat when it comes to their lives. “I think the teen mom becomes in charge of not letting obstacles get in the way of her path,” says Gaudiano on the vision of Middle Tyger’s mentoring sessions. “It’s not just about contraceptive compliance. It really is about helping them build a vision for their futures.”
Adolescent Family Life Case Manager Cindy Sanders is passionate when it comes to one-on-one mentoring and relationship building with her clients. One of her favorite duties is home visits, which give Sanders a chance to see those she works with through a different lens. “I was a little apprehensive when I first started [home visits], but I really see the benefit in that because it gives you such an up close and personal insight into the family’s life,” says Sanders. “I love the opportunity to meet other family members that are involved, either with the child or with the mom, and just make a connection. We have opportunities in those relationships to make referrals and identify more extensive needs the family may have that are beyond the immediate relationship with the young mom and her child.”
In 2006, Middle Tyger became a part of a federal demonstration grant through the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs. Through this grant, MTCC was able to expand their Adolescent Family Life Program (AFL) beyond Spartanburg School District Five, and into District Two, including a control group in District One. In 2014, the organization received a grant through The Mary Black Foundation, Children’s Trust, and the Office of Adolescent Health’s Pregnancy Assistance Fund to help take AFL to scale in all seven districts in Spartanburg County.
With genuine compassion and a true concern for the well-being of their community, Middle Tyger is a second home to the pregnant and parenting youth who walk through their doors every day. As the SC Campaign trains professionals throughout the state to do work in their own respective communities, Middle Tyger has proven to be one of our model partners. Through providing trainings, webinars, and technical support to Middle Tyger’s team, we have forged a relationship that has made a strong contribution to the well-being of our state.
We are proud of the work Middle Tyger has done to prove there is hope even after an unexpected pregnancy. In the words of Sanders, “Your life is not over. You didn’t plan for this, but we can work around it and you can still realize your dreams. They may look a little different, but they’re still obtainable. Let us partner with you and we can walk through this journey together.”
For more information on Middle Tyger Community Center, click here:
To read about one of Middle Tyger's success stories, click here:
*Images retrieved from Middle Tyger Community Center's official website*