Former teen mom beats the odds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2008

FRANKLIN—Nickelle Russell Baker is a perfect example of success at its best.

With a strong faith and self-reliance, she has pulled herself up the ladder from being unmarried and pregnant while at Franklin High School to becoming a supervisor in a regional social services program.

In September 1994, just months after her high school graduation, Baker’s son, Jerrod, was born. In January she enrolled at Paul D. Camp Community College as a single parent, determined to make a life for herself and her newborn son.

After learning she was pregnant, many people tried to give her advice, which included going on welfare. She wanted none of that life.

She recalls fondly the support from her mom, who said at the time, &uot;You can still go to school. Life has not stopped; things have just altered. Everything happens for a reason.&uot; Recounting her choices, Baker states emphatically, &uot;I wouldn’t change a thing.&uot;

Thus, she began her academic journey while working at Wendy’s at the same time. While attending Paul D. Camp, she also worked part time in the college bookstore.

After graduating from PDCCC with an associate’s degree in general studies, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human services counseling.

She was hired as a residential counselor for The Pines Treatment Center in Portsmouth for children with behavioral problems.

She also served as a Title I computer lab teacher for Franklin City Public Schools. She next became a clinician/behavioral specialist for Western Tidewater Community Services Board, working with its TDT (therapeutic day treatment) program for non-residential children with behavioral problems in Franklin. Within a year, she became a lead senior specialist and helped to start the same program in Suffolk and Windsor.

A little more than a year ago, she was promoted to school counseling intervention program manager for the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, supervising nine employees.

In her current position, she facilitates therapeutic groups for children in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade with mental disabilities (mainly behavioral problems) and counseling for those students and their parents.

She and her husband, Terrence Baker, have been married six years. Together they have three children: Keonda Baker, 14; Jerrod Russell, 13; and Keonte Baker, 9.

Like her role-model mom, JoAnne Russell (PDCCC graduate and assistant to the college president), Nickelle Russell Baker exemplifies success through hard work.