For teenagers still in high school, an unplanned pregnancy can feel like a future has been destroyed. While many women are able to successfully rise above the difficulties of teen pregnancy, the education system in the United States rarely gives those in less-than-ideal situations like teen pregnancy the ability to succeed. But some schools are slowly changing that, like one special institution in north Florida.
The St. Gerard campus in St. Augustine, Florida, is a pro-life organization dedicated to helping pregnant and parenting teens. There, mothers can complete their high school education, have a place to live, receive assistance with medical care, and more — all free of charge. And one of their own is now an extra-special success story: according to the Ponte Vedra Recorder, Brittany Glisson, the current executive director, was a student at the school who had her baby at the age of 17.
Faith plays a key part in the St. Gerard ministry, where each day begins with prayer and a Bible reading. And the school is designed around the teens’ dual roles as students and mothers.
“Many of our girls are just now being introduced to our Lord and Savior, and we never give up on them,” St. Gerard management told the Ponte Vedra Recorder. “We have qualified teachers who strive to help them get their diplomas. We have staff available for each girl if they need to talk. We have staff who help them learn how to be a good mom and just to listen to them. We have volunteers who sit with the babies in the classrooms until they are two months old, and when the babies need to be fed or have their diapers changed, their moms do that right in the classroom as we have changing tables readily available for them.”
After the babies reach two months old, they can go to the on-site daycare center. Additionally, there is a pregnancy center and dormitory for girls who have been kicked out of their homes. Each room has its own private bathroom and is equipped with a bed and crib. House mothers also live on campus, cooking for the girls and teaching them how to cook, clean, manage money, and learn other skills so they are prepared when the time comes for them to branch out on their own.
Teen pregnancy is often seen as something that ruins lives, and statistically, the outlook is bleak, with over half of teenage mothers failing to graduate, and a very small number of teen parents going on to earn college degrees. Teen mothers are also far more likely to live in poverty and depend on welfare. But much of this could be alleviated with a less rigid education system, one which offers flexibility to students trying to raise children or make medical appointments while also achieving their diplomas. Organizations like St. Gerard’s are proving that teen pregnancy doesn’t have to remain a crisis. Teen mothers are just as capable as anyone else is of getting their education and becoming successful — they just need the opportunity and assistance.
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