Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Real Teen Parents of Midcoast Maine

For this issue of Sound Off, sponsored by Five Town Communities That Care, we are focusing on teenage parents and what both challenges them and fulfills them in their new roles. Here are excerpts from The Community School’s Passages Program, a home-based high school degree program for young parents, ages 14 to 20, whose education was derailed by early parenthood. Through creating personal relevant lesson plans students put their learning to their own real-life tests and in the process “discover their strengths, connect with their families, practice personal responsibility, and contribute to their communities.”

Mackenzie Grey

Mackenzie Grey with son Thomas, 8 weeks old
How has bonding with your baby changed you?

Bonding with Thomas has changed me by giving me a new sense of responsibility. I’m responsible to take care of this little guy and raise him to be the best person he can be.

What are the challenges of being a young parent?

Keeping up with his needs and my needs at the same time; getting everything that has to be done. It’s a lot easier for me to do the Passages Program with a baby than go to regular school. I’m working on my private high school diploma right now, which is the equivalent of a regular high school diploma. I started in November and I’m going to graduate in June.

Arabella Gelman

Arabella Gelman with son,
 Zane Montgomery, 11 months

How has bonding with your baby changed you?

When it came to bonding with my son, it seemed instantaneous, effortless almost. This may sound like a cliché, but I never knew it was possible to love a human being so much, so unconditionally, so fast, until I had my son. The first time I looked at him, I never wanted to look away. He was the most beautiful human being I had ever laid eyes on. We were from then on forever each other’s and inseparable. I am in love with him, and he has showed me a whole new way of love - a love only a mother can have for her child.

What are the challenges of being a young parent?

It probably started with being as young as I am; that didn’t make [parenthood] easy. I’m still doing everything I think I would have been doing before him, like going to school and still working, but I just have him to make it a little more interesting. Right now I work at a consignment store two days a week and I just recently finished all my core skills for the Passages Program. I try and study when he takes a nap or when he goes to bed at 6:30 pm. That gives me plenty of time to be a night owl and get as much as I can done. It was really hard to focus on schoolwork at that hour at first, but I’ve really kind of adapted to it. I don’t get to sleep much [laughs] but I get it done.

Ashley Havener

Ashley Havener with son Trey, 2, 
and daughter Adalyn, 15 months
How has bonding with your baby changed you?

Bonding with my children really brought out the connection that we have. It showed me how much a person can love someone. My children definitely changed me from who I was before and made me the loving, caring and over-protective mother I am today. I wouldn’t change anything for the world!

What are the challenges of being a young parent?

I’m a stay-at-home mom and I can’t just go out and go to school everyday, so Passages has really helped work around my schedule.  I want to go into occupational therapy so in addition to Passages, I’m taking two adult education classes in biology with lab and Algebra. I’m working on getting into Kennebec Valley Community College. So, the challenge is finding time to study after my kids go to bed at 7:30 pm. I am tired but after they go to bed, I do all my work.

What have you learned from your child?

I’ve learned so much from my children. Not only have I learned to be responsible, patient, strong and caring, I’ve learned to make my life better and manage it well for all of us. I’ve really made a turn for the better such as enrolling in the Passages Program and possibly pursuing college. I’ve learned how to laugh and smile at the beautiful things in life, to be creative, be a good role model, and most importantly, they both have truly taught me how much you can love one another.

Mother & Child 
by Marissa Crocker

Adult Comment 
When I hear what our students say about parenthood, I realize how universal those feelings are. Whether they are 17 or 37, the life of first-time parents are changed drastically by the needs of their new babies. One of the most rewarding elements of working with young parents is to witness their personal growth as they learn to nurture the development of their children and discover and refine their own strengths. Their voices deserve to be heard.
-Andrea Itkin, Lead Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator

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