Teen-age mothers juggle books and children at the School of Technology HOWARD COUNTY EDUCATION Parenting program offers new chance

December 07, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Amy Yrban got all A's last quarter.

It was an honor the School of Technology student never received before -- and an achievement the 19-year-old mother and former dropout had worked hard to get.

She was ecstatic when she received her grades.

"My report cards never looked that good before," she said. "It was amazing."

She is enrolled at the vocational school's Teen Parenting Program, one of 26 students -- some as young as 13 -- juggling motherhood with books and families.

"I take my hat off to them," said Gerry Maxwell-Jones, program facilitator.

"They go through a lot. They have a lot of obstacles. Some of them have a part-time job. Some of them are married. And they all have a child."

The seven-year-old program, a cooperative effort among the Board of Education and the social services and health departments, aims to keep teen-age mothers in school to allow them to finish their education as well as to learn a trade. It provides pre-natal care, child-care classes, counseling and family planning. There's also a day-care center -- a room with 18 cribs, a diaper changing area, play area and a washer and dryer.

Mothers pop in and out between classes to see their children during the day, giving them hugs and kisses.

"The wonderful thing about this program is our students have come in without aspirations and they've gone on to college," said Mrs. Maxwell-Jones.

"We've been able to motivate them to do well to pursue a college education."

Since the program began, it has graduated 83 teen mothers -- only three have dropped out. Many of them continue their schooling at community colleges and universities, and others marry and hold jobs using skills they learned at the school. Those who have graduated come back to donate clothes and toys their children have outgrown for other students' children.

"The young women are changing their lives," Mrs. Maxwell-Jones said.

NB "They want to make their lives better. They want to accomplish

great things, such as developing effective parenting skills and developing career skills."

For Ms. Yrban, who dropped out of Centennial High School two years ago, the program gives her a second chance to earn her diploma -- something she knows she'll need to provide for her 2-year-old daughter, Brittany.

"I didn't want a G.E.D," she said. "I want to make something out of myself. I want to go to college and earn a master's degree in politics. I was stupid. I wasted so much time."

She wouldn't be able to go to school without the program, she says.

"There would have been no way. There would have been no one to watch Brittany. Day care costs $200 a week."

For 15-year-old Chekesha Armstead, who gave birth to a son two years ago, the fear of getting kicked out of the program has made her work harder to earn better grades. She gets straight B's now, up from D's, and she works on the school newspaper.

She's taking classes in information processing and she wants to go to college to study computers.

"The program helps teen parents and it keeps them in school," she said.

The program, which employs three day-care providers to watch the children, is running on a $130,000 budget this year. "Though the program may be expensive on paper, we'll spend less money because these moms won't end up on welfare rolls," said Mrs. Maxwell-Jones.

The program also accepts expectant mothers like 17-year-old Kim Patterson, who's due any day now. Miss Patterson is determined to stay in school and finish her classes to become a medical assistant. She aspires to graduate -- with honors -- and move onto a community college to earn her degree.

The program "helped me get used to other children," she said.

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