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Single parents, help is here!

by Kimberly McGrew
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Single parents in need of road map to a better life for themselves and their families will have access to a conference designed to help them this weekend.

"The Conference for Single Parents" will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday (July 21) at the Pursuit of God Transformation Center, 3171 Signal Street. Nicole Gates, campaign coordinator for the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth and author of "Success Over Statistics. I Choose!" is the pioneer behind the conference, which is geared toward men and women, both custodial and non-custodial parents.

"With Memphis having so many single parent households, it was essential to have this workshop," said Gates. "Who is reaching out to these single parents?"

According to www.city-data.com, Memphis is number 35 on the list of top 101 cities with the highest percentage of single-parent households. With a population of 650,100, 53 percent of Memphis households are headed by single parents. There are 78,541 single-parent households – 9, 607 headed by men and 68,934 by women. Nearly 1 in 5 teenagers is pregnant in Memphis, which is double the national average.

The conference will feature 16 workshops that include Money Management, Personal Development, Family Literacy, Matters of the Heart, Parenting by Personality, Entrepreneurship, and more.

Those conducting workshops will include Summer Owens, the author of "Life After Birth," who will examine being a teenage single parent. Peggy Russell will teach the importance of personal development and finding balance between work, school, kids and overcoming obstacles.

"I'm actually teaching a workshop on 'I Choose' and it's talking about the power of choice and how as a single parent you have a choice every day to either make life better for your kids or wallow in your self-pity," said Gates, who encourages single parents to become entrepreneurs.

"I am a firm believer that if you cannot find a job, create a job. Find something that you're passionate about," said Gates. "When I was going through my divorce, I leaped right into entrepreneurship and was very successful at it. So I know it can work, but you have to be passionate about it because it's a lot of hard work."

During the workshop focused on budgeting, parents will examine their bills (which they are asked to bring) and create a budget based on the bills and their income. The conference will also teach the parents (especially men) how to exercise their rights with the child support system and how to nurture their children.

The conference includes free breakfast, lunch and childcare. There will be a template of contacts so the parents can keep in touch with any speakers and have some information to take home. To register, visit http://theconferenceforsingle parents.eventbrite.com.

"My expectations are that people leave and they are motivated and driven to make a difference in, not just their lives, but the lives of their children," said Gates.

"And then maybe they will reach out and help another single parent. Life can be successful for you and your children. I am an example of it."

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