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Child care support at school helps teen parents reach graduation
EVERETT - Turning a few corners inside Sequoia High School’s main building, crying babies can be heard.
Sequoia, the Everett School District’s alternative learning campus, is home to the district’s teen parent program called GRADS.
The program offers day care on campus, which allows teen parents to stay in school.
They can see their young children often throughout the school day while juggling a full-time class load that includes math, reading, writing and basic parenting skills.
Inside the day care, Daysi Rodriguez, 17, of Mukilteo bounced her boy, Javier, in her arms.
“I feel like my baby is graduating with me,” Rodriguez said.
That is comforting for a young mother like Rodriguez.
“I don’t want him far away,” she said. “I want to be as close as possible.”
There are about a dozen teen parents in Everett’s GRADS program. Everett is one of three school districts in Snohomish County with a program like GRADS. The others are in Marysville and Granite Falls.
The district converted Sequoia’s home economics kitchen into a licensed day care, and parents provide the food and diapers. Community members donate baby items such as rockers, strollers and high chairs.
“They climb, they tumble, they go all over,” day care worker Leslie Sutin said.
The district provides two licensed day care workers to watch the children while their parents are in class. A mentor from Cocoon House’s Teen Parent Advocate program comes each week to help teach the teens parenting skills.
Everett is the only district with a GRADS program that has a day care center.
The goal of the GRADS program is to graduate each teen parent. The teen parents have the same graduation requirements as non-parents.
Without GRADS, “I would have ended up getting a GED instead,” parent Nina Kiaer said. Kiaer, 17, is working toward going to Western Washington University.
Her longtime boyfriend Robin Wright, 17, appreciates getting time to play with their 6-month-old son Colton Wright.
“It’s exciting and a whole new experience,” Wright said while playing peek-a-boo with Colton. “Who wouldn’t want to be near your baby?”
Getting pregnant divides friendships, the teens said.
“You learn who your true friends are,” Kiaer said.
Life with a baby means little time for friends and a large amount of time caring for the child, teen parents told the Tribune.
Nationally, there was a record low of teen pregnancies in 2010, the latest figures available. In Snohomish County that year there were 468 teen pregnancies.
A 2010 national survey found only half of teen moms get a high school diploma by age 22, and one third of teen moms never get a diploma or GED.
There are about 30 students in GRADS programs in Snohomish County.

 

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