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HomeLocalAround the ArchdioceseThe Avi Project Founded to ‘Walk Alongside’ Pregnant College Students in Colorado

The Avi Project Founded to ‘Walk Alongside’ Pregnant College Students in Colorado

Women with unplanned pregnancies don’t just need physical resources: they also need companionship, according to the founder of the Avi Project, Nicole Cavey.  

Nearly two years ago, Cavey took inspiration from her own experience with college pregnancy and designed a mentorship program for college women with unplanned pregnancies. The organization has spread across Denver since then, spanning seven college campuses, with growing staff and resource partnerships and more than 50 trained volunteer mentors.  

Cavey told Denver Catholic that the Avi Project is designed to help pregnant college students with every aspect of pregnancy — and beyond.

“Let’s support them in everything pregnancy-related, showing them they’re loved and supported, but at the same time set them up for success,” she said, explaining the original idea behind the project. “We really want them to know that we can help them not only in their pregnancy but also finish school, because these women come to school with hopes and dreams and that doesn’t change when they get pregnant.”

Behind the Avi Project

Cavey’s inspiration for this project comes from firsthand experience with the struggle of unplanned pregnancy in college. 

“I was that girl, like 33 years ago,” she said. “I got pregnant when I was in college in Montana and so ever since then I’ve always been drawn—felt called—to participate in unplanned pregnancy [situations].”

She has been happily married for about 30 years and has three children.

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“When I got pregnant in college, we were really lucky,” she explained. “We had the support of our family friends. My boyfriend at the time is my husband today. We always just felt really lucky. And so that was part of my sense of wanting to give back — because I know even know [even though] we were lucky, it was still really hard.”

“[I] just always felt like I was being called to more,” she said.

The Avi companionship system connects women to resources through trained advisors who can understand their needs and provide mentorship, resources, and support. 

“We understand that each client will be unique and [each] situation is different, but we try to be prepared for the obvious,” she said. “We sit down all together and figure out what her needs are and how we can support her in those needs.”

The Avi Project begins by meeting with a pregnant student to get to know her and introduce her to what they have to offer. If she is open to continuing, they introduce her to two “empower partners” who offer emotional support and connect her with resources based on her needs. The empower partners are usually a younger woman who has been through pregnancy and childbirth and an older woman who has more experience and time. Both meet with the woman individually three times a trimester. 

“The goal and the mission is to walk alongside them through their pregnancy, but also [to] help them reach the goals that they have set for themselves, not only through their education but also the goals they set for themselves while they’re with us in the project,” Cavey explained. “But no matter where they come into the project, we walk with them for three months after they deliver.”

The team at Avi assigns resources to the women, including money managers, licensed therapists, health and wellness coaches, doulas, and spiritual directors, depending on their needs. 

Avi’s Outreach

The Avi Project has three different avenues for outreach: on-campus, in parishes, and online. 

“We put all of our efforts into creating awareness on the different campuses here in Colorado mostly north-south of the Denver metro area,” Cavey explained. “We currently have been working really hard on creating hubs on each campus so that we have a presence.” 

Each campus has a campus leader who is an alum or lives close by and students ambassadors who do outreach on campus. 

“These are men and women who are willing to help us create awareness in the different extracurricular activities they are involved in, as well as be a friend—a community—to women on that campus that find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy,” Cavey said. 

Avi also spreads the word online through their website, social media, and a recent documentary. The organization reaches out to parishes and churches for volunteers to be church ambassadors. 

“These are women who want to help us spread the word within their own parish,” Cavey explained. 

Avi partners with an adoption agency and with a variety of pregnancy health centers. They also help parishes host baby showers for pregnant college students. Additionally, the Avi Project regularly refers women to Marisol Health and Bella Health + Wellness for prenatal care.

“There’s nothing that has given me more joy than this,” she said, “and it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the reward is so huge.”

“You get to work with so many women that are excited and passionate about the same thing that you are and willing to give their time. It’s so incredible—and then, when you get that text message that comes through and it’s a student saying that she needs help, it makes it all worth it.”

To learn more, visit theaviproject.com.

Kate Quiñones
Kate Quiñones
Kate Cavanaugh Quiñones is a journalist who has been published by Catholic News Agency, CatholicVote, and the Wall Street Journal. She graduated from Hillsdale College with a B.A. in English.
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