Teen-age Mother Takes School, Child Care In Stride

Harford Graduates1991/the Best And The Brightest

May 26, 1991|By Jodi Bizar | Jodi Bizar,Contributing writer

In the evening, while most teen-agers are doing their homework or gabbing on the phone, Frances S. Woodard can be found caring for her daughter, Tabonya, 3. Often, the Aberdeen High student doesn't get around to tackling her homework until midnight.

Yet the 17-year-old mother holds a 3.4 grade-point average at Aberdeen High School. She'll attend the University of Maryland College Park this fall on a Benjamin Banneker scholarship. "Just because you're young and you have a child doesn't mean you have to go on welfare," said Frances.

But keeping up with her studies and keeping up with young Tabonyahas not been easy.

"Hard isn't the word for it," Frances said, laughing. "A lot of times I really look at the money I've earned since she's been born, and I think that I could have used it for a car or nice clothes. But the sacrifices I'm making now will help me in the future."

The young woman works part-time at two restaurants on Route40 in Aberdeen. The money she earns is used to pay for a baby-sitterfor Tabonya while Frances is at school.

Frances' parents, Charles, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, and Ann, agreed to care for Tabonya while their daughter attends college classes.

"Since I got the scholarship," Frances said, "they're going to give me a chance."

By her junior year, however, the student hopes to have secured a joband an apartment so that her daughter can come live with her.

Frances dreams of a career in international finance or the computer industry and working in a large East Coast city. The classes she enjoys most are computers and accounting.

Her least favorite subject is math. "I get good grades in it," she said, "but I still don't like it."

Frances has found time to participate in three school clubs, the Future Business Leaders of America, Black Heritage, and Time Out to Serve, which assists senior citizens and the physically challenged.

Looking back, Frances says she's come a long way since she became pregnant. "There was a lot of stress while I was pregnant," she said. "My grades were slipping. My father wouldn't talk to me the whole timeI was pregnant."

Some tried to convince her to have an abortion, she said. "I was against it," she said. "I don't believe in it."

Afamily tried to talk her into giving the baby up for adoption, but she wouldn't consent to that either. So, barely 15, she gave birth to Tabonya.

The oldest of five children, Frances said she received help and moral support from her mother while she was pregnant. And now everyone in her family helps with Tabonya, including her sister, who often cares for the child.

Being a teen-age single parent has beendifficult, but she's not alone at her school. Frances estimates there are about 20 other young women at Aberdeen High who also have smallchildren.

During her years at Aberdeen High, most people have accepted her situation, and most of her friends try to include Tabonya in social activities.

However, Frances said she doesn't have as much time to socialize because of her jobs, school work and her daughter. But she has managed to make the honor roll every semester.

"My parents always emphasized over and over again that education can make you a success or a failure," she said.

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