#5 of 50: Laura Pedersen, RN, MSN
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#5 of 50: Laura Pedersen, RN, MSN

Nurse Executive

Laura is one of the few people that I have met whose value system is in complete alignment with how they live both personally and professionally. Perhaps this is because she has crafted a life in service to others and in particular to teen mothers and their babies.

Laura’s daughter Andrea brought her mother to my attention. Andrea said, “My mother is always thinking about other people and how she can help them. I think it’s about time my mom gets recognized for all the things she does for everyone else. She’s amazing.”

After meeting Laura at our pre-photoshoot consultation and then spending time with her during the photoshoot and later interviewing her, I couldn’t agree more with Andrea’s sentiments.

In her early twenties Laura moved to Tucson. Shortly after she arrived Laura joined a woman’s group. The women decided to do a community service project and chose to provide support to a group home for pregnant teens. Little did she know at the time but her work with pregnant teens would change the trajectory of her life. She was present for three of the teens’ births and the miracle of life left a lasting impression of joy on Laura.

The arc of Laura’s story took place over many years. She married and became a stay at home mom for her children. When Laura was in her early thirties and her four children were all in school, she and a friend decided to go to nursing school. She kept up with working with teen moms in a variety of ways, including the hospital where she accepted a position caring for newly delivered mothers and their newborns. Laura was just getting started in her career when she unexpectedly became pregnant with her youngest daughter, Valerie.

Laura found that based upon her own experience she had an even softer spot in her heart for the teen moms she was helping. Here she was a nurse, an experienced mother who was working full time and Laura wasn’t sure how to keep everything afloat with a new baby in the mix.

Laura and a fellow nurse saw a need to expand the hospitals services for teen moms so they approached the appropriate hospital manager who gave them a resounding two thumbs down on their proposal citing the usual red tape, lack of funds and all the other mumbo jumbo that shuns progress due to lack of enthusiasm. The two friends shelved the idea and went on with the business of nursing patients.

Three weeks later a Tucson teen who had hidden her pregnancy from her friends and family delivered her baby at home. When it was discovered the baby had died and was disposed of in the trash bin, she was arrested. This story haunted Laura and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she needed to try to make a positive outcome from this tragic occurrence. In retrospect what if the teen mom had someone who would have walked on the pregnancy journey with her? All the “what if” questions kept percolating in Laura’s head until she decided to do something about it.

Out of the tragedy came the spark that lit Laura’s fire to overcome all objections to starting an agency that would help pregnant teens before and after birth. Laura committed to doing her part to help pregnant teens avoid tragic outcomes. Seven weeks after the baby died, the not for profit organization, Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services (TOPS) was launched from Laura’s living room. In December 2000 they received their official 501(c)(3) and in January 2001 she hit the ground running.

Laura said, “I’m a nurse, a public health nurse, and I do social work. I’ve developed a social work program that has a case management component to it to guide pregnant teens who are at a higher risk for failure and turn them towards success.”

In 2019, TOPS was integrated into a larger statewide organization, Arizona Youth Partnership. The primary goal was to secure the future of the program. In many cases when a founder leaves an organization it can flounder and in some cases fail and Laura wanted to do everything in her power to ensure the organization’s long term success.

To make a long and successful story short, Laura and her team have helped over 8,000 teen moms and their babies in Arizona. And now Laura endeavors to take the success of this program and help other states to implement it, too.

There’s more to Laura's story and you will be able to gain additional information, plus learn ways to help teen girls in Tucson and throughout Arizona. You will also see additional portraits from Laura’s photoshoot upon the release of the Wise Women: The 50 over 50 Portrait Magazine later this year.

You are invited to attend the Wise Women Portrait Gala on Thursday, October 13th at the Savoy Opera House in Tucson, Arizona from 5-9 p.m. Each participant will be featured in a creative portrait on display in the art exhibit. Buffet dinner, no-host bar, music, dancing, magic and a raffle will be part of the evening’s festivities celebrating these 50 fabulous women. Purchase tickets on Eventbrite, click here. Attend with a friend, or two or three or four.

Natural Light & Studio Light | Textured Hand Painted Backdrop by Michelle Beaumont Owens

Professional hair and makeup by Erika Christine Aguirre.

Location: Tucson, Arizona.