'I love to give': Local nonprofit serving teen parents wins North Carolina Peace Prize

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The nonprofit organization Helping Each Adolescent Reach Their Spark (HEARTS) has won this year's North Carolina Peace Prize, an award founder and executive director Tameka Brown said left her at a loss for words.

"I don't do this work because I'm going to get awarded for it or rewarded for it," Brown said. "I do it because I absolutely love the work that I do. I love to give. I love to love."

HEARTS works with young parents in the community between the ages of 13 and 22 to provide resources, education and services while promoting self-sufficiency and independence. According to Brown, a major goal is ending harmful generational cycles often caused by teen pregnancy.

"I saw how my best friend was affected by team mom circumstances," Brown said. "And I just made every part of my being - every moment, every mission to help young moms in need."

Over the past 10 years of its operation, HEARTS has served around 127 teen mothers, maintaining approximately a 92 percent graduation rate.

"It's just my mission to make sure that they have what they need because they, too, want to be good moms," Brown said. "Even though they are young, they chose to keep their children. And I love every last one of them and I want to see every last one of them succeed."

Each year, the North Carolina Peace Corps gives out the North Carolina Peace Prize to a small community-based nonprofit organization in the state, awarding the group with $1,000 and a recognition ceremony. The ceremony for HEARTS will take place Sunday, May 1.

According to Brown, the concept for HEARTS began when she was a student at North Carolina A&T University and initially created the curriculum for the nonprofit as an assignment.

Brown said obtaining the North Carolina Peace Prize brings both recognition to the work done by HEARTS and awareness to teen pregnancy in the area.

"Receiving the NC Peace Prize means that we're bringing awareness to teen pregnancy and teen moms in Durham County and beyond," Brown said. "It means that everyone in the community gets to witness the work and the dedication that HEARTS has been doing for 10 years without the financial stability that we needed in order to be sustained as an organization."
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