Teachers in teen parent program take hands-on approach to caring
Splash Guest Column
It's the first day of school at the East Valley High School Teen Parent Program. A 16-year-old girl walks into school with her 10-month-old son. On the outside, she looks like a strong and confident young lady without any worries. Little does anyone know, she is homeless and about to be put into foster care. Both of her parents are alcoholics, and her stepdad has abused her a lot over the past few years.
About a week before school started, a conflict occurred with her parents, her son's father and her. Her parents were both drunk that night when her stepdad pulled a knife out with the intentions of stabbing her son's father. The girl was scared and jumped in front of her stepdad only to be stabbed in the face. One of the neighbors called 911 when she heard the screaming. Shortly after, the police, fire department and an ambulance were knocking on the door. Unfortunately, the stepdad was gone by the time they arrived, but the truth finally came out. She gave her report to the police officer, and they were determined to find him.
The next day, a Child Protection Service (CPS) social worker called and wanted to meet with her and take her out of the home. The only problem: There weren't many foster homes that would take both a teenage mother and her son. So she had to couch surf for a few weeks until the CPS social worker could find a home that would take the two of them.
When that 16-year-old girl walked into the teen parent program that day, she didn't just walk into a normal classroom; she walked into a classroom full of caring teachers with open hearts and open arms. As they found out her story, one of the workers in the nursery offered for her to stay at her house until the CPS social worker found a home for her. The teachers offered some clothes and gave her a food backpack so her son would have something healthy to eat. They also gave her a shoulder to cry on and stood by her side to support her.
Before school, she felt alone and like she had no way to escape. As time passed, things started changing for the better. Once these kind teachers started to get to know her and recognized her potential as a young woman who wants to go to college instead of just be a teen with a baby, they wanted to help more. The lead teacher of the teen parent program opened her home to the 16-year-old girl and her 10-month-old son. She not only had concern for her schooling, she wanted her to become part of their family. The thought of someone actually wanting her to be part of their family warmed the girl's heart. She was so surprised to hear that someone who only met her a few months ago was willing to open hearts, wallets and home to help take care of her and her son.
She has now been living with her new family for almost a month. She is starting to overcome her weakness of feeling guilty for things she had no control over, and she is no longer feeling scared and worried about her future.
The 16-year-old girl now wants to be able to give back to the community since they have helped her so much. Being in the teen parent program gives her a great opportunity to do that. Every week, she helps pack weekend food bags for kids throughout the district who are low-income and don't have very much food. She also tries to put in as much time as possible into the clothing bank, organizing, sorting and hanging clothes on the rack. This 16-year-old girl knows how much a caring person or organization can impact a person's life, and she just wants to be able to help make an impact on other lives like that made for her and her son.
Ali Roberts is a junior at East Valley High School enrolled in the Teen Parent Program. She has a 1-year-old son, Damien. This column was written as part of a monthly series highlighting the PACE (Partners Advancing Character Education) trait of the month, which for December is "caring."