ESSENCE Network: How A Former Teen Mom Overcame Cancer and Started A Social Hub For Activists

Center of Attention Photography

Deona Hooper, founder of Social Work Helper Magazine, started her company during one of the hardest moments of her life.

Mariya Moseley Jan, 19, 2017

Name: Deona Hooper 

Age: 42

Occupation: Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Social Work Helper Magazine

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Hometown: Harrells, North Carolina 

Facebook: Social Work Helper 

Twitter: @swhelpercom Facebook: Social Work Helper

Passion fuels a dream: Hooper created Social Work Helper, an online magazine providing news, information, and resources for social issues and human rights. 

Creating a digital space for social workers: I did it initially as a therapeutic outlet that started out as a social network but I broadened it to a media outlet creating awareness for populations who might not have that. Social workers are there to help people through crisis, so I decided to not just uplift their voices into a media platform but an intervention.

Being a third generation teen mom:
Being a black woman period, you’re already starting off at a deficit and then when you’re a teen parent, much less a generational teen parent, the judgment and the low expectations will follow, but it’s just another hurdle to overcome. (Both Hooper’s mother and grandmother were young mothers too.)

Overcoming cancer: I had a thyroid condition but I couldn’t get care because I didn’t have any health insurance. It wasn’t until I actually got insurance again years later that I got diagnosed with cancer. I’m healthy now but it’s been a challenge. I built Social Work Helper during some of the worst years of my life. I was the sole provider for myself and not being able to work with doctor bills really crushed me financially, but instead of focusing on everything going wrong, I decided to put my time into Social Work Helper.

Her advice for teen moms: Never succumb to peer pressure, trust yourself and follow your instincts. When you follow what your instincts are telling you, you can save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

What she likes to do in her downtime: I’m a comic book super hero nerd. One of the things that I’ve been able to do is go to Comic-Con where I’m able to marry my passion for social work and helping others with comics and graphic novels and things of that nature.

Her super power: I have the ability to carry a lot and not show it.

Her theme song: “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston