A Portrait of Amanda
Monday, February 8, 2016
For Amanda Towery, bragging on her own accomplishments isn’t quite her style.
The talented photographer and recent college graduate sat quietly as staff at Middle Tyger Community Center praised not only her talents, but her intellect as well. “As an artist, I always find fault in my stuff,” she interjected, as the team expressed how much they value the work she has done for the organization.
Middle Tyger Community Center in Lyman, SC offers services that encourage pregnant and parenting youth to continue their education. From monthly home visits to one-on-one mentoring and childcare, Middle Tyger creates an opportunity for young parents to realize their full potential. A former program participant, Towery is just one of the many examples of success that has emerged from within the organization.
Having a baby at twenty-years-old and in the midst of her college education did not deter Towery from accomplishing her goals. Learning about Middle Tyger from her younger sisters who were both teen mothers, Towery knew just who to call when she discovered she was pregnant. The center was able to offer her the services she would need in order to complete her education. “I don’t think I would’ve continued college,” said Towery, reflecting on what life would’ve been like without help from Middle Tyger. “My mom works all the time and my fiancé’s parents work all the time. I don’t have a huge network of friends I would trust a child with. I would’ve probably dropped out and stayed home.”
Using her education and creativity, Towery has reached back into the organization to help uplift young women who are experiencing a journey similar to her own. During the spring, program participants created vivid vision boards that laced the walls of Middle Tyger’s board room. Next to them, black and white photographs of the young mothers were displayed, all captured by Towery. “It was a very powerful visual,” said Cindy Sanders, Adolescent Family Life Case Manager at Middle Tyger. “People that came to the community center were able to see these wonderful, beautiful young women and what their dreams are incarnate. It was a tangible visual of their dreams."
One of the most inspiring stories shared by Towery and the Middle Tyger staff focused on educating others about the negative effects of spanking. A fall 2015 Greenville Technical College graduate, Towery took a speech class that allowed her to voice her perspective. Before presenting her speech, Towery administered a survey to her fellow classmates that showed 17 students believed spanking was acceptable. By the end of her speech, an additional survey showed only 8 remained unmoved. What is even more remarkable is the change in her own professor. “My teacher had a 12-year-old and a set of 8-year-old twins and she would spank them,” said Towery. “I actually conversed with her after the semester was over and she now doesn’t spank her children. She does timeouts and she says it’s been incredible.”
On the heels of such an inspiring speech, Towery was invited to return to Middle Tyger’s weekly healthy lifestyle class to present the same talk she gave her college classmates. “It was so powerful just for them to hear from a peer and somebody that is a little bit older maybe than some of the younger ones,” said Sanders. “She gave back by sharing that information and she was very transparent about what her reasons were and how it was very different from the way she was disciplined growing up.”
One of the goals of the SC Campaign is to ensure health centers across the state are teen friendly. Our partners at Middle Tyger Community Center who have actively attended our trainings and events are an example of what that truly means. “It’s kind of like you get to bond with a new aunt or a new relative,” said Towery about the staff at Middle Tyger. “I was skeptical about child care, but I realized they loved and cared for my daughter as much as I did so I knew she was safe […] The classes that they offer are during the school hours for high school students and after school for secondary. You get to bond with other teenagers making it not so scary.”
Not only has Towery gained a special bond with other young moms at Middle Tyger, but business opportunities as well. “Within our group, one young lady, after the spring semester she graduated from college, she got married. She hired Amanda to do her wedding pictures,” said Sanders. “We try to promote her business because she has a fabulous portfolio. Middle Tyger has on occasion hired Amanda to do some publicity shots.”
The impact Middle Tyger and Towery have made on each other is quite an inspiration. Being able to touch the lives of each other proves community programs not only have the power to help mold the futures of those they impact, but receive unexpected support from those they have touched as well. As Towery continues her journey as a photographer, we are excited to see her continued impact on young parents with futures just as bright.
To view Amanda’s portfolio, click here: http://www.facebook.com/AmandaTPhotography/
To learn more about Middle Tyger Community center, click here: http://www.middletyger.org/