Although parenthood at Parkdale may not appear to be very common, PGCPS has a program called the Adolescent Single Parent Program that provides resources to young parents to help them stay in school.
“The services are available for students [but] I feel like one of the issues is that a lot of students aren’t willing to come in,” said child development teacher Ms. Bushrod. “I don’t know if they are just okay financially or resourcefully or they just don’t want anyone to really know because I know a lot of students tend to keep it pretty secretly that they have children.”
These services include health care, skills to help the teen parent find the right career for them and learn how to parent.
Programs like this are necessary because according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school.”
The dropout rate is so high because many teen parents struggle with handling school and taking care of their children. One teen parent who knows a lot about this struggle is junior Autumn L. Polite.
“Some challenges I have is [I’ve] lost being able to do homework at home while having to watch my son,” said Polite. “Another challenge is the night routine, during the night waking up, feeding him while having school the next morning.”
In addition to challenges with time, teen parents also struggle with not finishing high school because of the dynamic of school in general.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “illegal discrimination against [pregnant] girls by school administrators, teachers, counselors and fellow students is a major contributing factor to their high dropout rates.” Research also shows that dropout rates decrease when teen parents feel support from the school.
However, many students and staff members have different reactions when they see a teen mom in the halls just trying to get to class.
“Most people just gave me ugly looks and whispers to other people about it,” said Polite. It also took [a while] before my stomach started to show, [so] most people didn’t realize I was pregnant and other[s] just asked respectful questions.”
Although the teen pregnancy rate has declined over the last 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), statistics show that 40 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse. These acts could lead to teen pregnancy and the struggles that come with it.
“It is a very important question to ask yourself if you’re ready to take on that kind of responsibility,” advised Polite. “It requires a lot of hard work and sleepless nights.”
Despite all the struggles academically and socially, many teen parents aim to stay in school and want to graduate and succeed.
“I had a couple who had two children together by the time they graduated and they still graduated high school on time,” said Ms. Bushrod.
Like this couple, Polite also wants to find success despite parenthood at a young age.
“I want to go to community college so I can go to work right after,” said Polite. “I want to become a vet. I love animals [and] I want to earn money for a nice house just for me and my son, and that’s my only main focus right now.”