When TaShena Melton entered St. Monica Home as a 17-year-old unwed mother-to-be, she never dreamed that one day she would become the manager of the Dyer facility—a role she started this past June.
“It’s amazing—God chose me to come full circle and brought me back here,” Melton says. “This is a dream job I thought I’d never have. I was happy where I was (working at another residential care facility for youth), but this was St. Monica, the program that drove me to do the work I want to do.”
Dedicated to Learning
When Melton arrived as a resident in 1996, St. Monica Home, located on the campus of Franciscan St. Margaret Health-Dyer, had opened two years earlier. Melton says her mother had encouraged her to take advantage of the program, which offers a medically sound and emotionally healthy residential environment for young women aged 12 to 21, who are awaiting the birth of a child or have recently given birth.
Melton says her now 18-year-old son was the first boy born of a client there. Years later, she had two girls, and Melton and her husband are in the process of moving to Merrillville with their daughters.
Melton spent nearly a year at St. Monica Home, during which time she dedicated herself to learning both school—and life—lessons. Staff members at the facility drove her to and from her home high school of East Chicago Central, where she was an honors student, so she could complete her senior year.
In addition, Melton says, “I learned how to set up a household; to menu-plan and shop on a budget. I learned to defer my needs for those of my son. The philosophy and care here is based on the residents, who are taught how to rectify poor decisions they made. The staff cares day in and day out about helping them learn to become better mothers.”
Armed with the tools she needed to succeed, Melton later earned a double-major bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice and a master’s degree in social work and public administration at Indiana University-Northwest. Melton says her accomplishments were due to the mentoring she received from the staff at St. Monica Home.
Although not originally interested in pursuing a career in social work, Melton’s interest in the discipline blossomed when she had the opportunity to informally mentor young people and then “wanted to learn more, which led to the next step.”
Now, her experience as a former client better enables her to make a positive impact on the current residents. “I am able to get past the brick wall of being told, ‘You don’t know what I’m going through, you know nothing about me, you’d never understand,’ because I do know and understand, and I’m going to hold you to standards I know you can achieve,” she says.
Melton also praises St. Monica Home for its uniquely effective program. “Too often, a lot of programs aren’t like St. Monica’s,” she says. “They don’t expect young moms to achieve; they are almost handicapped by everybody doing things for them. My philosophy is to empower them to do more, to aim for something higher. We expect our residents to succeed in their lives.”
“TaShena is a wonderful example of a person who understands firsthand what this mission is about,” says Tony Englert, executive director of the Franciscan Alliance Foundation, which supports St. Monica Home. “Her return to the St. Monica Home is a shining, tangible reflection of how the gifts our donors share with this mission make a real difference in the lives of so many young women."