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2022 NC Peace Prize Winner
H.E.A.R.T.S. Awarded North Carolina Peace Prize
North Carolina Peace Corps Association will hold ceremony on May 1 to honor the Durham nonprofit for its work assisting adolescent parents and their children
The North Carolina Peace Corps Association (NCPCA) has awarded its annual North Carolina Peace Prize to H.E.A.R.T.S., a Durham nonprofit organization that assists adolescent parents and their children.
Helping Each Adolescent Reach Their Spark (H.E.A.R.T.S.) works with parents as young as 13 to become more self-sufficient and gain equitable access to available resources and services. Since its inception in 2012, it has served more than 100 Black and Latinx pregnant and parenting teenagers.
“Our mission is to make sure young parents’ needs are being met, removing barriers and challenges,” said Tameka Brown, the organization’s founder and executive director. “We provide all participants with the same opportunity and access to youth experiences as teenagers and young adults who are not in the same situations.”
NCPCA will honor H.E.A.R.T.S. with its North Carolina Peace Prize at a ceremony at 3 p.m. May 1 at Pullen Memorial Church in Raleigh.
The prize includes a $1,000 check and a hand-thrown vase from a North Carolina-based artist. Established in 1998, the annual award recognizes a community-based, nonprofit organization. A group of NCPCA judges, all former Peace Corps Volunteers living in the Triangle, selects an applicant that exemplifies the Peace Corps values of public awareness, education, cross-cultural understanding and community service. (A list of previous awardees is at www.ncpeacecorps.org/cpages/peace-prize.)
“We are honored to receive this award, which we hope will call attention to the more than 8,000 adolescent parents who currently reside in North Carolina,” Brown said. “Durham’s repeat teen pregnancy rate is 23 percent, and the city is ranked number 43 in the state. Only 38 percent of teen moms receive a high school diploma.”
Brown said H.E.A.R.T.S. will use the prize money to provide selected young parents with small scholarships for post-secondary education, along with clothing for the “LoveBug Children’s Closet” and materials for program participants.
“We were inspired by how H.E.A.R.T.S. is changing the lives of young people in our community who are often overlooked and underserved,” said NCPCA President Thomas Phillips. “It works closely with a small group of young parents every year, helping them to believe in themselves, overcome obstacles and pursue a better future, while also helping their young families and working to reduce teen pregnancy.”
H.E.A.R.T.S. teaches adolescent parents “how to deal with being a young mother, how to cope with depression, how to deal with insecurities, and how to care for yourself and your children when nobody else will,” one former participant, now a nursing student, wrote in a letter supporting the organization’s application. “Although many people see teen mothers as less than equal or too incompetent to accomplish great things, Ms. Brown continuously reassures us that we can do all things in faith because we are great and one day our greatness could change the world.”
Additional information about H.E.A.R.T.S. is available on its website, www.heartsnc.org. NCPA’s site is at www.ncpeacecorps.org.