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Filed under Features

Teen pregnancy, parenthood make finishing school difficult

Teen pregnancy, parenthood make finishing school difficult

Photo: Kaydee Miller

Junior Emma Morgan takes a break from studying to feed her 6-month-old son, Xavier.

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As the school bus doors slowly open, she takes a deep breath and carefully descends the stairs. She opens the big metal doors and tries to hold her head high, but the hallway goes silent as she enters the building. Everyone stops doing whatever they’re doing and all eyes are on her.

She looks at the ground and tries to avoid eye contact, but she can’t ignore the whispers. Instinctively, she puts her hands on her big round belly to protect the little human growing inside. Embarrassment rises from the pit of her gut and reddens her face.

She knows first-hand what it’s like to be one of the 750,000 pregnant teenage girls in America.

Teen pregnancy statistics are sobering

The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western industrialized world.  Lately, you can’t turn on the television without hearing a story about another teen mom. Shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom shine the light on the once-shadowed subject of teen pregnancy. According to pregnantteenhelp.com, the United States also spends $7 billion annually on teen pregnancy, proving that this issue affects all Americans whether they know a teen parent or not.

One huge concern for teen mothers is how they are going to take care of a child and finish high school. Statistics show teen mothers are less likely to complete high school. Only one-third will receive a high school diploma, and only 1.5 percent will have a college degree by age 30.

The statistics on the children of teen moms aren’t very cheery either. According to the Robin Hood Foundation Special Report, sons of teenager mothers are 13 percent more likely to end up in prison, while daughters of teenage mothers are 22 percent more likely to become teen moms themselves.

However, high schools across America are providing services to teenage mothers to help them finish their education and prove the statistics wrong. Fairmont High School is among those high schools that help young mothers achieve the goal of getting their diploma.

Project empowers young parents

Project Empower is a non-profit organization in partnership with the United Way that helps support young moms up to the age of 22. The group meets every Tuesday across from the South Unit Office at Fairmont.

Jen Davis and Courtney Donati, Project Empower social workers, focus on teaching young mothers a myriad of life skills to help them be the best mothers they can be. The group meets to discuss many topics, including healthy relationships, drug and alcohol avoidance, making wise choices, going to college, getting a job, housing and stress management.

“Project Empower teaches young mothers to form friends and create bonds with other mothers who are going through the same thing,” Donati said.

Junior Emma Morgan participates in Fairmont’s Project Empower. She works hard to balance taking care of her 6-month old child, Xavier, and finishing high school. “It’s very hard,” she said. “I don’t like coming to school because I miss him a lot, but in the end I know it’s for the best.”

Morgan says support is a huge factor in coming back to school after having a child. It is even more difficult for her because her fiancé and father of Xavier is away at boot camp for the Marines. Doing it all on her own and coming to school every day poses its challenges, but Morgan insists she won’t give up her education. “You have to keep your head up and always remind yourself that getting your education is what is best for your child and for yourself,” she said.

Dealing with judgmental peers

Morgan also had a hard time facing judgment from her peers. “One thing other students should remember is that it is very hard for us moms to go to school and have a normal teenage life because that’s really not possible anymore. It’s all about our children and what’s best for them,” she said. “We live a very different life and struggle every day to provide for them.”

Heather Kline, who graduated in January, was also a part of Project Empower when she was at Fairmont. She had a very difficult time attending high school and taking care of her 4- month-old daughter, Lilly. Kline was surprised to find out she was pregnant at such a young age. “I was super scared, nervous and worried about how to financially support myself and a baby,” she said.

Kline also had the strong belief that finishing high school would not only benefit her life, but also her daughter’s. “Finishing high school was one of the hardest tasks to complete. Without an education, moving forward in my life would be nearly impossible,” she said.

The bills start adding up

Having a baby is expensive for parents of any age, but it can be nearly impossible for teenagers who don’t have a full-time job and are still trying to go to school. As soon as a mother finds out she is pregnant, the bills start adding up.

First, there are all the baby supplies: cribs, car seats, strollers, swings, toys and clothes. Then come the hospital expenses and stays, which can add up quickly, especially if the baby has health problems.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, the average hospital stay for labor and delivery costs $5,000 to $10,000, depending on insurance. If the baby is premature or has complications, costs can range from a few thousand dollars to $200,000 for a long stay.

Then, once the baby is home, the cost of diapers, wipes and formula can skyrocket.

According to lovetoknow.com, a newborn will go through 300 to 400 diapers a month. That will cost about $75 to $125 a month. If the baby is on formula, that’s another $100.

The next difficult aspect for teen moms is not only finding someone to baby sit during the day but also affording it. “Finding a babysitter every day of the week was a hard task,” Kline said. “Also, time to do my homework between feeding and changing diapers was not easy. Professional day care was way out of my price limit, so I had to rely on close friends and family to keep after her. Sometimes, I had to miss school if I couldn’t find a sitter since Lilly’s father works a full-time job to pay the bills.”

Not all parents are lucky enough to find free child care, however. Professional day care can cost any where from $100 to $800 a month. Many young moms find it impossible to pay that kind of money especially when they are still in high school.

Teacher making a difference

Shelley Heaps teaches the classes Child Development and Relationships for Life at Fairmont. She often works with young mothers before and after they have their babies. She focuses on educating young parents about family, parenting, pregnancy, fetal development, housing, marriage and parenting through all stages of the child’s life.

Heaps says another crucial aspect for mothers who return to school is support. It can be very difficult for young moms to come back to school and face ridicule or judgment from their peers for having a baby. “New moms need encouragement and support from everyone in their lives. If you don’t have anything nice to say to new moms when they return to school, don’t say anything at all,” Heaps advises.

Along with seeing teen parents who overcome the odds, Heaps has seen the downside of teen pregnancy. “Often times, statistics are true. Many teen parents go on welfare and live in poverty. Teenage moms tend to run in families while boys of teenage moms tend to be in jail. Being a parent at any age is such a challenge; it is definitely not for the faint of heart.”

Teen moms’ advice: Don’t give up

Being a teen parent is no easy task. It becomes an even bigger struggle for moms who try to finish their education. Morgan gives advice to other teen moms based on her own experiences. “Keep your head up and always remind yourself that getting your education is what is best for you and your child,” she said.

Kline also has advice for other teen moms. “No matter how hard it gets to juggle school and raise an infant, don’t give up. It will be worth the fight in the end. Without a job, raising a child and becoming independent will seem impossible.”

16 Comments

16 Responses to “Teen pregnancy, parenthood make finishing school difficult”

  1. Tiffanie Wall on February 23rd, 2011 1:11 pm

    Well I think that you both will make great mothers. Emma, you and Austin will be great parents and your son will grow up to be the cutest lil rocker. He’ll be just like his mommy and daddy. Enjoy being a parent.

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  2. Stephen West on February 25th, 2011 10:39 am

    Forgive me for being rude but if I am correct, teen moms chose to be teen moms most of the time, and therefore chose to be miserable. Having a study group to help teen moms seems like having a group to help criminals be criminals to me. I understand that sometimes people get raped, but with that exception if you chose to have a child during high school, you better be prepared to care for it by yourself and continue getting good grades in school. This, by the way, is also my stand on abortion. If you don’t want to or if you can’t care for a child, choose not to have one instead of killing a living child. Once again, forgive me for being rude, but why do we have this problem in the first place? Someone had to make a choice.

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    Brittany Bowling Reply:

    I’ve never heard someone be so rude on such a subject. What goes around comes around, dude. Having a baby doesn’t make your life miserable; it just makes it a little harder.

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    Sierra Bauer Reply:

    Agreed, it doesn’t make it miserable. But also with the fact that if you do consider abortion, think about everything you love to have. Your son/daughter wouldn’t ever get to know what you love. And plus, if you do get pregnant, then you should just put it up for adoption because no child deserves to die, no matter what the case. Even if you can’t take care of it.

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    Stef Reply:

    You know … I pray you don’t find yourself the parent or grandparent of a teen with a baby on the way. Even the best-raised children can find themselves in “trouble.” All we can do now is love them and pray they can beat the odds.

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    A teen-mom herself Reply:

    Well, STEPHEN,
    First and foremost, this topic obviously does not apply to you, because you are a male. Therefore, you have never been in this situation. A teen mom myself, I found these services quite useful and am now about to graduate with my BACHELOR’S degree at 23. I had my daughter 3 days after I turned 18. If it wasn’t for encouraging people and the helping hands in my life, I may have never made it this far.

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    Successful Teen PARENTS! Reply:

    I like to say first of all that judging ALL teen moms is wrong … some of us fall short of the statistics, but we are still here! I was 16 when I had my son who is now 6. My husband (also the father of my child) and I graduated high school on time with our class, and we both graduated with honors. I went on to college and he joined the military. We now are both very successful in our lives and proved EVERYONE wrong. We’ve been married 3 wonderful years and now have 2 children. We live on our own, pay our own bills, and live our lives just like any other 22-year-old should. I’m thankful to have had my son; he was the push we both needed to make something of ourselves. We did it and so can any other teen parent out there. It just takes strength!

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    Rosie Reply:

    My little sister just had a little girl and she is only 16. I feel for her b/c she is the sweetest, smartest girl I know. It is unfortunate that people like you exist and speak the way you do about young pregnant girls and pregnant moms. Support groups help young mothers keep their confidence so that they can be independent and finish college and be not just young mothers, but GREAT mothers. It also helps our economy because the more young mothers become part of a support group, the more they stay off government welfare and have the support they need to financially support themselves, their child and get a degree.

    I’m sure you are one of those people that call young pregnant girls sluts or believe they are evil if they are not married, but pregnant. I mean, you did compare them to criminals, right? Stephen, please get a life and some help yourself. I’m sure you’re sexist and racist, too. That’s how you use come off from your typing. I’m sure we all agree with that.

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  3. Teresa Freckman on February 28th, 2011 2:32 pm

    Excuse me, but have you never made a mistake? At least they are trying to do what is right. They did not have an abortion or have the baby and leave it in a trash can. Yes, they made a choice to have sex; they also made a choice in giving the babies’ life. I am sure you’re perfect and have never made a mistake or wrong decision. GOOD FOR YOU. I am proud of my daughter. Not only did she have a baby betwen her 10th and 11th grade, but she is going to graduate one year early — all while taking care of her son and holding down a job.

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  4. Emma Morgan on March 6th, 2011 3:50 pm

    Just so you know, I am getting good grades in school, along with working. So don’t worry about my life. My son is not a mistake. I love him very much and I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t understand why my life is any of your business anyway. I don’t think I’ve made a mistake whatsoever. Nothing I’m doing is hurting you. I’m not like other teen moms. I actually have a job. I don’t freeload off of my mom. I take care of my child myself. I’m getting married to his father. You know nothing about my life whatsoever. So before you get on here and talk about something you know nothing about, you should probably get to know me and about my life before you judge.

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  5. Kaytee Seyfferle on March 23rd, 2011 2:22 pm

    OK. Just because we are teen moms doesn’t mean that we made a mistake. Yes, we chose to do the responsible thing and take care of our child. But that doesn’t mean we chose to get pregnant in high school. We chose to do the right thing for us and our child. Maybe it’s not the right choice for you, but that doesn’t make you any better of a person.

    Our children are not mistakes, they are miracles. Yes, our lives are harder, but that doesn’t mean we are miserable. My daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

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  6. Whitney Phillips on April 12th, 2011 11:41 am

    I would have to disagree with the Stephen kid above. They don’t make their lives miserable just by having a kid. They don’t always choose whether not they want to end up pregnant. Now I agree that if you can’t even think about the facts of having a kid, then maybe you shouldn’t be having sex. But anytime you have intercourse with the opposite sex, there’s always that chance to end up pregnant. It only takes one time to get there, so it doesn’t always mean that they are a hoe or just sleeping around. I think that my dear friend Emma Morgan is a wonderful mother, and she always will be. Not only does she have her baby boy, but she also juggles school and having a job.That’s pretty good for a teen mother, and I think she makes an excellent role model. (: Love you, Emma!

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  7. Ross on May 9th, 2012 12:27 pm

    I wrote a haiku about this

    Pregnancy occurs
    Sometimes to random young girls
    Deal with it. Move on.

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  8. kaneca on September 5th, 2012 11:25 am

    I am a teen mom. I became a teen mom at the age of 13, and I am proud of who I have become. We teen moms show the negative people that we can do it, no matter what others think. I hold my head high every day, and there is nothing wrong with being a teen mom. Thank you.

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  9. Ms.Thomas on February 25th, 2013 1:52 pm

    I’m a teen mom and even though my boyfriend and I were having unprotected sex, I didn’t choose to get pregnant. Yes, I knew what it would lead up to, but it wasn’t a CHOICE!! However, everyone is not always miserable when becoming a teen mom. I’m very proud of the life that I have today for me and my son. Yes, I had a child in the 10th grade, but I also graduated and went on to further my goals. I graduated from high school in May 2011 and am now working on my B.A. in Psychology and will be graduating in May 2014. I had a child young, but I chose not to be a statistic of teen pregnancy! We can all make a difference; you don’t have to be a statistic like others! If you have a supportive team and family who is willing to help you through it, then go for it! I know everyone is able to be best with a family that will help them through this. Children are gifts from GOD and should be treated in that way!! MY SON IS A GIFT FROM GOD AND I WOULDN’T TRADE NOR ABORT HIM FOR THE WORLD!!

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  10. Mikala on June 25th, 2014 11:22 am

    I am a teen mother and I am proud of my son. He is 6 months old, I did not choose to get pregnant and no I never thought I would have kids. But it happened to me and I am fighting to make sure his life is everything it needs to be. he is my world and I am still in school graduating in October 2014 and will be going on to college I work a part time job and still have time for my son and to do things with him. his father is still in our lives but not able to help because he is to have surgery. my life is not miserable just a little hard but in the end it will be all worth it for my son.

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