May 4, 2016 // Local

The Catholic Charities ECHO Program helped Bridget Andersen reach her potential

Bridget had extraordinary support, including her boyfriend Damon, who came nearly every day to visit their son. Bridget and Damon eventually became a family and had another son Elijah. Pictured from left, Bridget, Damon Jr., Elijah, Damon Sr.

By Jessica Soto

When Bridget discovered she was pregnant, she confided in the school nurse, who put her in touch with the case manager from ECHO – Education Creates Hope and Opportunity – a program begun by Catholic Charities to help keep teen moms in school.

It was clear with Bridget early on. She was going to raise her baby and complete her high-school education. So she met with the principal, her parents and others who would play a role in discussing her future. With their assistance, Bridget made a plan to finish high school and eventually go on to college.

Meanwhile, Bridget found that being pregnant as a freshman was a great social challenge. Her friends were well meaning, but failed to understand the difficulty of her circumstances.

“I remember my friends thought being pregnant was really cool, but it wasn’t,” says Bridget. “I was feeling the weight of being a mom at 15 and it was really scary.”

But Bridget received the help she needed from her parents, the administrators at school, her boyfriend Damon, and her ECHO case manager. With their support, she found the confidence and resolve to see it through.

“Bridget was an ideal client,” says Liz Flaherty, one of her former ECHO caseworkers. “She was always focused on her goals, always fighting for her family and her future.”

Her son, Damon Jr., was born the following August and, soon after, Bridget began her sophomore year. However, the following March, her son became seriously ill and required constant attention so Bridget dropped out of school to care him.

She never waivered from her goal of getting her HSE (formerly GED). ECHO stepped in and found a program with flexible hours so she could continue her studies. Bridget persevered through her son’s illness and remarkably ended up graduating at 18 with her peers.

She didn’t stop there. Today Bridget is working to complete her associate’s degree in nursing at Ivy Tech and plans eventually to attend IPFW to get her bachelor’s degree.

“I’m not sure where I’ll end up in my career, but I really feel a need to be there for other moms who are struggling so maybe working in the NICU or at a doctor’s office is in my future.

Damon Jr.’s father, Damon Sr., visited Bridget and son nearly every day. Over time, they formed the bonds of family and eventually had another child, Elijah, who is now four years old. Bridget and Damon Sr., who are engaged to be married next year, are both continuing their education to build a more secure future for their family.

To learn more about ECHO, please visit:

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