Young Mothers High School Programs
National statistics show that only 38% of young women who become pregnant while still attending high school will graduate with a high school diploma. At the Young Women’s Resource Center young mothers are actively challenging this statistic with 83% of YWRC mothers obtaining a high school diploma. Perinatal Specialist, Ashley Ezzio, and Parenting/Life Skills Specialist, Elia Cardenas, attribute this successful graduation rate to the support of the Young Mother’s High School programing offered at the YWRC.
The Young Mother’s High School programs are active in six high schools in the Des Moines area including East, North, Lincoln, Hoover, Scavo and South East Polk. Groups provide education and support on a variety of topics tailored to the needs of young mothers. Topics include parenting skills, pregnancy education, contraception choices, goal setting, body image, self-esteem, healthy relationships and child development.
“So many times young mothers are only given education around parenting, but what about empowerment to celebrate their bodies? Their bodies created a human life and that is something worth celebrating,” says Ashley Ezzio.
Providing programming within the high schools eliminates several barriers young mothers may encounter while trying to juggle being a parent AND a high school student. One of the biggest barriers to overcome is transportation. Since YWRC groups are held during school hours and on school grounds, the need to find an extra ride or babysitter in order to be a part of the groups is eliminated.
The high school groups also allow young mothers to find mutual bonds with peers. Many times there are mothers of different ages who are parenting children at different developmental stages. This becomes a great environment for peer-to-peer advice to be openly given and encourages a bond and support between students.
High school programming not only creates relationships between mothers, but also between students and school staff. YWRC staff is able to help facilitate conversations with students and teachers regarding needs for maternity leave, coordination of breastfeeding, online learning and special transportation needs. By linking students with the proper supports in their school, they gain encouragement from teachers they see every day. This encouragement helps to make taking caring of an infant at 3 a.m. and waking up for school at 6 a.m. seem much less overwhelming.
Relationships between the YWRC staff and local high schools also help disengaged students find a path back to school. Life changes when a baby is expected to enter the world. Suddenly, family dynamics are different, relationships can become strained, sleep is a rare luxury and the need to find employment is urgent. For these reasons and more, it’s understandable that some young mothers find themselves being dropped from their high school classes.
By working together, the YWRC and local school districts are better able to provide a variety of support for young mothers. Depending on individual needs, students are able to choose from a variety of learning environments, coordinate quality childcare and find reliable transportation to help them achieve their goal of a high school diploma.
The YWRC stands to be a place where young women can come for guidance and empowerment. We believe that the sophomore student who wakes up early every day to catch the bus for school, and carries with her not only her backpack but also her unborn child, is powerful and capable of great things. Both Ashley and Elia are grateful for and appreciative of the partnership of each and every staff member at all six of these schools, and for the community support that makes this programming possible.