Jenna and Matt Pebworth feel blessed to have each other and their two beloved children. Zeke is three, and Kaya was born a few days after the interview for this story. Like most families, their path hasn’t always been an easy one. They said their faith, family and community helped them achieve the life they share today.
Jenna and Matt met when she was working at a store in Stringtown, Oklahoma, where Matt was a regular customer. “The more I got to know him the more I realized he was such a good man,” said Jenna. “He did everything that he could just to be a solid male in my life, which is huge. He’s hardworking and very smart. It was easy falling in love with him.”
The admiration was mutual, according to Matt. “It didn’t take long to realize that Jenna was intelligent and fun loving and a very caring and beautiful person. And we did more than just date. She invited me to church. I got saved and baptized at our home church here in Oklahoma. Things just took off from the start and went like wildfire.”
Having children was important to both of them, but it would be six years before that happened. “We started trying when we first got married, but it didn’t work, said Jenna. "The doctors really didn’t see anything wrong with us,” said Jenna. “So, we just kind of went along. We both worked hard. I finished college in 2012, then he finished in 2014. And then one day out of the blue, I was teaching public school at Stringtown, and I just kind of had a feeling. I asked Matt to go get a pregnancy test for me, and on my lunch break we found out we were pregnant!”
Jenna had received a lot of education and training in child development. Even so, she and Matt felt their family would benefit from the home visiting program sponsored by the Choctaw Nation. The program, called Chahta Vlla Apela (Helping Choctaw Children), is funded by a grant from the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF).
“Danielle was great,” Jenna said of their home visitor. “She would come twice a month and do a lesson from their curriculum on child development. She would show us the activity for the day, and then observe us doing the activity. And then she’d just spend some time loving on my baby. Zeke aged out of the program, so we’re not a part of it anymore, but we sure wish we were because my baby boy just loves her.”
Matt was there for most of the home visits. “I’ll be honest – at first I was thinking, ‘yay, free diapers,’” he said. “But once I got to know Danielle and see the things that the Choctaw Nation was doing with this program, I thought it was great.”
The home visiting program holds group meetings, where families connect with each other. “We got to hang out with other families who are in the program and have food and do activities,” said Jenna. “The activities were fun, and they tried to make them child-led at the same time. My son always got to go home with a new toy or a new book or something else that was appropriate for development.”
The Pebworths have few relatives in the area to turn to. The exception is in Matt’s mom, whom they see on a regular basis. “Zeke loves his grandma so much,” said Jenna. “We’ve had a lot of support from friends and family, but she’s our number one support family-wise.”
“There’s lots of wisdom out there, and most all of our friends and church family and community have been more than willing to help,” Matt said. “One of our biggest supporters is the Choctaw Nation. They help their tribal members and families in numerous ways. For instance, they helped us to secure our first home mortgage.”
Jenna and Matt recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. As she looks to the future, Jenna plans to pursue her Master’s Degree, enjoy their home in the country and do whatever it takes to be there for her family.
“My goals are pretty simple and basic,” Matt said. “I want to do all that I can to provide for my family. As a parent, I want to teach my children to love. I want to teach them all I can about this world, and I want them to become loving, productive, educated citizens. If I can do that I’ll consider myself a success, and I’ll consider us a success as parents.”
For more information, contact Barbara Moffitt at Choctaw Nation at email@example.com or 580-326-8304 ext. 6048. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is a federally recognized tribe, with a service area of nearly 12,000 square miles. The tribe’s mission is to enhance the lives of all members through opportunities designed to develop healthy, successful and productive lifestyles. Learn more at http://www.choctawnation.com
ACF’s Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides grants to tribal entities to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. The grants are intended to help develop and strengthen tribal capacity to support and promote the health and well-being of AIAN families; expand the evidence base around home visiting in tribal communities; and support and strengthen cooperation and linkages between programs that serve tribal children and their families. Learn more about the Tribal Home Visiting program and grantees at /programs/ecd/home-visiting/tribal-home-visiting