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CLEVELAND — It’s a graduation of sorts.  But it’s really a celebration of life.

For the past five years, infant mortality rates in Cleveland have been some of the highest in the state.

But, a two-year program to cut down those totals has turned into a partnership with nurses helping new parents like Sharita Taylor get their footing with their first child.

“The program helped me navigate through my first pregnancy and helped me overcome a lot —  gives me a lot of knowledge about being a first time parent,” Taylor said.

MetroHealth Medical Center, in conjunction with a grant from the Mt. Sinai Foundation, created the nurse family partnership.

It sends registered nurses into homes of expectant mothers to monitor their health and provide prenatal care and advice.

Once the baby is born, the nurses continue to follow up with mother and child. The approach is simple: Work to put the family in a position to succeed.

“We offer them education resources that are out in the community; we offer things like housing, just educating them on what it is to be the best parent possible, program coordinator Maria Cody said.

All of the children in the program are thriving. Many parents have been able to move their lives forward, as well.

Jeff Sigley says the nurse that’s been helping his family is a great friend and she’s taught all of them a lot.

“It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be hard. If you have people that are willing to give you help and listen to them you’ll get through it and he has come a long way, farther than I thought, at this point,” Sigley said.

The graduates are the first of more than 300 families who are being helped by the partnership. MetroHealth hopes to expand it, bringing in more families so that children — no matter where they start in life — get a chance to succeed.