When Tyra Moore was 14, she got pregnant. She was scared, and didn’t tell her mom until she was 36 weeks along. A few days later, she gave birth to a daughter.
The family was completely unprepared. But when Moore arrived home from the hospital, she discovered gifts piled outside her front door. Neighbors, friends and family members donated baby clothes, a crib, baby books, formula, pacifiers, bottles — everything a new mom would need.
“They really came together and made a village for my child, and that helped a lot,” Moore, 31, of Detroit, tells TODAY.com. “I was like one day, when I can, I want to pay it forward.”
She’s been paying it forward since she founded A Girl Like Me, a nonprofit in Detroit that provides mentoring and free baby items like diapers, wipes, formula and food to teen girls, teen moms and young moms.
“It just came to me because I wanted to help girls like me and prevent girls from being like me. And I wanted to do more,” she says.
She provides free baby supplies to moms up to age 25. She also offers parenting classes, where teen moms discuss the challenges they face. Moore says girls know they can be candid with her, because she’s so open about her experiences as a teen mom.
“I’m really boisterous about telling my story,” Moore says. “I’ve been homeless before. I’ve had bad breakups, bad friends and things with family members. And with them seeing that I’m not scared to admit that and tell them that, it helps them to come out and also have a safe space.”
Moore also encourages the girls in her organization to create goals and pursue them. For the mentoring program, she chats with teens about financial literacy, self-care and personal hygiene, for example.
“It’s everything I didn’t learn as a teen,” she says. “We teach and learn with each other.”
In 2007, Moore didn’t know she was pregnant at first, because she still had what she thought was a period. When she felt the baby kick, she started to understand what was happening. She told her mom she was pregnant on a Tuesday. By Friday, Moore had delivered her baby. At the time, she had not received any prenatal treatment. Still, the baby was healthy.
“I was deathly scared to go to my mom,” she says. “During that experience of having my child, my mom was very supportive, of course, with buying diapers and things like that. But she was really on my head to make sure I took care of my baby.”
Sometimes that tough love hurt Moore, who says her mom didn’t expect she would amount to much because she was a teen mom. Still, Moore persevered for her daughter, Samari, who is now almost 16.
“She really saved my life,” Moore says. “I can keep on moving, keep on pushing. I can do this. I can complete the goals I said I wanted to do before her.”
Moore's struggles as a young mom have become teaching moments for the teens she now mentors. She earned her diploma through an online high school, and having a virtual option made it easier for her. Some young moms remain unaware of their educational options, Moore says: Detroit has a school just for parents, and there are various online programs. She helps the moms find the best fit for them.
“It has been great. With school, all the moms I work with stay in school. If they have time to work, when they can, they work,” Moore says. “I had so many girls finally feeling like they had a safe space to come and tell their stories.”
Moore is the only employee of the nonprofit and isn’t paid. She’s finishing college for an associate's degree to become a surgical technician but remains devoted to a Girl Like Me. She hopes to expand the organization and offer even more programs and support to Detroit.
“I really love my community,” she says. “I really love helping and making sure that I can be that voice or that help or that resource to help a teen or a girl or a mom accomplish what they need to accomplish.”