Program aims to keep teen moms in school

Program aims to keep teen moms in school

PURVIS, Miss. (WDAM) - Teen pregnancy is one of the strongest taboos in our society. No parent wants their teen to become a parent themselves, but it happens. When it happens in the Lamar County School District, there is a group that helps teens like 17-year-old Makaleigh Martin stay positive, focused and most importantly, stay in school.

Makaleigh is a senior at Purvis High School. She recalled a time, not too long ago, when she thought her dreams were lost.

“Going to school the first day was like, I was a nervous wreck," Makaleigh said. “I didn’t want people to judge me or treat me any differently.”

In August 2018, she said she walked into school scared and seven months pregnant.

“I didn’t think anyone would support me. Not even my family,” Makaleigh said.

Makaleigh said she thought her future was over, especially her dream of becoming a nurse, until she opened up to her mom.

“We cried a lot, but mainly she was just there for me like supporting me and wanting me to finish high school and be a teenager and just live my life to the fullest,” Makaleigh said.

Living a fulfilled life meant not only finishing high school, but planning for the nursing career she wants.

“Whatever dream and passion they had before pregnancy, it is still possible after pregnancy. That’s the goal of our program,” said April Burnside, coordinator of the program.

That program is the Lamar County School District’s Parents as Teachers.

“It’s really just a parent education support program,” Burnside said.

Burnside is a Parent Educator of the program. She’s been helping Martin not only be the best parent she can be, but work towards graduation.

“When I became a Parent Educator in 2008, I really focused on the teen program, expanding that, making sure that kids were supported and stayed in school,” Burnside said.

Burnside said that’s because staying in school as a pregnant teen or teen-aged parent becomes a game of statistics. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen pregnancy is the number one reason girls drop out of school. According to Mississippi State Department of Health, only one-third of teen mothers receive a high school diploma. Less than 2% of teen moms finish college by 30.

Burnside said to prevent teens in Lamar County from becoming another number, Parents as Teachers steps in and thinks outside the box to help teenagers like Makaleigh.

“We do online programs," Burnside said. “Education that we proctor at home, test, exams, so anything that we can do to help them stay in school.”

High school graduation is on the horizon for Makaleigh, so she and Burnside are focused on making sure the road from a diploma leads to a degree. That path started at the Lamar County Center for Technical Education. Martin is finishing up her two year Career and Technical Education program. She’ll soon have her LPN certification.

“I am proud to say now that she is dual enrolled as a senior in high school and as a college student,” Burnside said.

Parents as Teachers also offers home visits after the baby is born. Burnside said she got to see Makaleigh push through those early hardships. Now, Makaleigh’s son is 1 year old. Burnside said she is excited to see what the future holds for Makaleigh.

“I’m happy to say I’m doing good now, and everything’s OK,” Makaleigh said.

Burnside said Parents as Teachers doesn’t just serve teens. They help any parent who lives in Lamar County from pregnancy until the child turns 5 years old. They help with resources like medical assistance, WIC, or home visits and many other baby needs.

If you would like to know more about Parents as Teachers or reach out to the program you can call this number: 601-794-5982

Copyright 2019 WDAM. All rights reserved.