Generations Ahead has served hundreds of pregnant and parenting teens in the Grand Traverse area for more than 40 years.
Long known as the Doula Program, Generations Ahead began at the Child Guidance Center in 1977 with funding from the Michigan Department of Mental Health. Services had begun two years earlier as a pilot program in conjunction with the Grand Traverse County Probate Court Volunteer Program and Munson Medical Center. Volunteer mentor moms, called Doulas, provided vital guidance and support by establishing one-on-one trusting relationships with teens grappling with the unexpected role of young motherhood. After its first 20 years of providing the program, the Child Guidance Clinic reported that it had served 739 families and involved 442 volunteers.
In 2004, the Child Guidance Center physically moved the Doula Program’s operating space to Traverse City High School. After the Child Guidance Center closed, Doula became a service provided by the Women’s Resource Center in 2005. The program remained housed at TC High School. Working with consultant, the WRC Board received a Rotary Charities planning grant in Fall 2016 to adapt the program and find it a new home.
Led by local philanthropists and community leaders Brenda Biederman, Sondra Shaw-Hardy, Susie Janis, and Marsha Smith, in Fall 2017 a committed group of community donors pledged three years of budgetary support to continue and expand services. The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation (GTRCF) served as the philanthropic partner to steward the donor giving that gave Generations Ahead the support needed to launch as a new non-profit. This community generosity made it possible to revitalize and launch Generations Ahead into a new era, starting as an independent non-profit in October 2020.
Embedding a trauma-informed lens in all programming, the organization offers three critical components. Volunteer mentors and the program social worker provide trusting relationships that pregnant and parenting teens indicate makes a profound difference. To foster long term independence, program participants receive guidance and support to focus on their continued education and employment readiness. Partnerships with existing services are creating a community network effectively focused on the distinct needs of teenage parents and their children.