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Terra Centre celebrates 50 years of helping teen parents find success

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The Terra Centre hosted a block party on Saturday to celebrate 50 years of helping teen parents succeed in Edmonton.

Started in 1971, the non-profit organization helps pregnant and parenting teens to continue pursuing their academic studies and learn life skills to set themselves, along with their new children, for success.

First operating as the Association for Assistance to Unwed Mothers, the organization has since expanded to creating a school with dedicated child and family support and offering group programs, prenatal classes, and housing.

"Over the last 50 years, Terra has grown from an organization that was primarily supporting high school completion for teen parents to this amazing huge range of services that responds to almost any need that young parents could have," explained Karen Mottershead, executive director.

It now serves 1,000 moms, dads, and children across the city each year and is supported by volunteers, donations, and government support from the city, province, and federal government.

"We are doing lots of work helping young parents to ensure that their children have all the support they need to have strong, health futures," Mottershead added. "Whatever the need is, whatever the calling is, we are there."

Often the biggest role the centre helps with is overcoming the stigma associated with parenting a child when still a young mom or dad. Brooke Malysh said she loved the community the centre provides.

"It's been easier than when it was without them," Malysh told CTV News Edmonton. "They are very helpful."

Keaira Marois always wanted to be a nurse. When she became pregnant, she was worried that dream would never come to fruition.

"I felt very discouraged after I got pregnant," Marois said. "(I didn't) think it was a possibility for me to be able to finish school while pregnant."

She attended Terra's Braemar School, a joint initiative with Edmonton Public Schools to help support parenting and pregnant teens from 13 to 20 years of age.

"When I joined Braemar, it was really nice to just see how big of a community it is and just how much they help the moms that they do have in the school," Marois said.

"It also helped with the scares of pregnancy," she added. "I was terrified of giving birth. I didn't know what it was going to be like."

Marois credits the Terra Centre's programming as the reason she was able to graduate and be the valedictorian for her class.

She now volunteers with the centre and plans to start her nursing studies at Norquest in January.

"They were all very welcoming and supporting," Marois said.

Melissa Mendes-Hurst, Terra Centre's collaborative services supervisor, is an alumna of the centre. She had her daughter 20 years ago while relying on the centre's services.

"I am so thankful that there were forward-thinking people 50 years ago to make a place for teen parents," she told CTV News Edmonton.

"It's incredible our programming has changed so much, and it offers us the opportunity to really make a difference."

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