NewsHillsborough County


USF professor helping educate teen mothers in the Bahamas

USF professor helping educate teen mothers in the Bahamas
Posted at 9:59 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 23:22:06-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Dr. Ruthmae Sears has a knack for numbers.

"I'm an associate professor at the University of South Florida," she said.

When she saw the rising number of teen moms being kicked out of schools in her home country of the Bahamas, she had to get involved.

"I got involved with the pace program after graduating with my Master's degree and due to my desire to promote equitable outcomes, particularly in mathematics and numeracy," she said.

The PACE program, founded in 1969, helps provide education, life skills, prenatal support and more to young women — where education often stops at whatever age they get pregnant.

They're young women like Allanelle Nairn-Williams, who went through the program herself.

"Over here you cannot be in school and be pregnant," she said. "I actually graduate high school, and then I went on to get my Bachelor's in accounting and now I'm currently in the business field."

Dr. Sears has been teaching with the school for more than 10 years. She said one of the program's main goals is to break cycles.

"Without knowledge, this can actually repeat itself," she said.

A leader with the PACE program's foundation agrees.

"If we have a teenager who is a parent who is incapable, and who doesn't have a high school diploma as a baseline," Sonia Brown said. "How is that person supposed to escape poverty, especially, let me add this, in a developing country?"

In the end, Dr. Sears said the work, and successes of their graduates are all a labor of love.

"It helps me to reflect on the power of love," she said.

Leaders with the PACE program also say that they're now looking to expand and provide education and support to teen fathers in the Bahamas.