Gloria Malone is not one to live within the confines of others’ expectations. At age 15, Malone became pregnant and her life kicked into high gear – and she has not slowed down since. Today Malone works to reduce the stigma around teen pregnancy, particularly as it negatively impacts teens’ access to quality healthcare, education, and community support.
As a teen, Malone not only had to navigate high school and get her homework done, but she also worked full-time – in retail and as a mother. She succeeded in all areas, graduating high school with honors, completing her undergraduate degree at Seminole State College of Florida in just a year and a half, getting a job at a prestigious Florida law firm, and eventually moving to New York City to become an advocate.
On her 21st birthday, Malone started Teen Mom NYC, a blog dedicated to providing accurate, reliable, and inspiring information and advice to teen mothers. Through education, empowerment, and a strong community of contributors that Malone built from the ground up, Teen Mom NYC offers young women the tools necessary to help create better lives for themselves and their families and rise above the bleak statistics that they so often face. Malone also co-founded the award-winning campaign #NoTeenShame to break down stereotypes about teen motherhood and educate lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and educators on ways to assist and support pregnant and parenting teens. Through these channels she seeks to usher in systemic changes regarding daycare pricing and accessibility, support within educational settings, childcare and healthcare access, and laws related to motherhood.
Outside of Teen Mom NYC and #NoTeenShame, Malone served as the co-chair of the Young Women’s Advisory Council in New York City and helped to create policy, culture and programmatic recommendations for the city to better support and understand the needs of young women and girls. In op-eds, interviews, and speaking opportunities, Malone consistently highlights and speaks out against the racism that underlies campaigns that stigmatize teen pregnancy, such as narratives that depict black mothers as “welfare queens” and teen mothers as a root cause of poverty in the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that U.S. teen pregnancy rates are substantially higher than other western industrialized nations, and racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in teen birth rates persist. Further, only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age.  These statistics highlight the many obstacles teenage parents face. However, by bolstering support of teenage parents and their families – by helping them to stay in school to complete their education and increasing access to safe, quality and affordable daycare, healthcare, housing, and career readiness services–more teen parents will have experiences and success stories to match Malone’s. Critically, Malone’s activism analyzes the systemic barriers young parents face and pushes for change on an institutional, cultural, and political level. The Reproductive Health Access Project, believes that choosing when and if to become a parent is a human right and is key to ensuring that everyone can grow and thrive on their own terms.