Supporter Spotlight: Juanita Cano-Munoz
Juanita Cano-Munoz became aware of alley’s house through a meeting at Dallas Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA). Juanita felt an instant connection with alley’s house.
“[It] really hit home,” Juanita said. “I sat quietly listening to her because she was describing me 18 years ago”.
Juanita is not a stranger to the stigma and challenges that come along with being a teen mother. She sees teen mothers are often stereotyped and thought of as just another statistic.
She sees this because she was a teen mother.
After she became a pregnant at 18, her world changed. Her parents, disappointed that she was not continuing her plan to attend college, cut her off emotionally and financially.
For the next two years Juanita lived with her boyfriend, now husband, and worked hard to provide a good life for them and a future for herself.
“During that time we lived in a dumpy apartment and he worked 60+hours a week to support us,” she said.
Juanita has memories of eating Ramen soup and beans and rice, many, many nights on their extremely tight budget. During this time she stayed home and cared for her daughter and worked odd jobs when she found them, but found it difficult to find a full-time job for her because she could not afford childcare.
She knew that she wanted to be more successful and she needed to get more education in order to advance. Juanita would not have been happy working as a secretary for the rest of her life. After her daughter turned two, she approached her parents and made a contract with them to watch her daughter while she attended classes. Juanita agreed to pay them and they agreed to charge a reduced rate than outside childcare would cost.
“I wanted to go to school so badly that I applied for every scholarship and grant I could find,” she said. I took up to 22 hours a semester trying to finish school as quickly as possible.”
She started at Dallas County Community Colleges, and eventually transferred to SMU to complete her degree. Juanita’s education and her daughter’s well-being were her top priorities.
“I made sure I worked my butt off to give her everything and make sure she was well provided for,” Juanita stated. “My daughter was accepted into one of the most elite private schools in town and in the beginning I worked two jobs just to pay for the tuition.”
Juanita uses her daughter as inspiration to work hard and to become a successful person, despite the fact that she had her daughter at a young age.
“Every day I tell myself I have to do better for her. So she can be proud of me, so she can live her dreams, so she can become better than I am, than my family,” she said. “Everything I do, I do with her in mind because I have to show her that even though I didn’t do things as my parents had planned for me, I’m still a good person and just because I made one mistake, doesn’t mean I’m destined for failure.”
Juanita sees that alley’s house provides the tools for teen mom’s to become successful.
“Having a support group and mentor just enables them to be successful, Juanita said. If you can give them the opportunity, they can be great contributing members of society and can be successful. They just need the chance and guidance.”
Now that she has overcome the challenges of being a teen mom, she has advice for young moms.
“If you’re with a guy, he’s gotten you pregnant and he doesn’t want to marry you, he’s probably not a good match for you,” she said. “If a man doesn’t think of a successful future with you, he probably won’t be supporting you to meet your goals. You both need to be thinking, how can we overcome this? How do WE get ahead? If he’s not, move on.”
Juanita’s story shows that with enough will power and determination one can succeed despite whatever challenges they may face.