Updated: Nov 19, 2021
The Why As a senior in high school, I was given a 40% chance of graduating; I am currently being given a 2% chance of graduating college by 30 years old. What is the driving force behind this statistic? I had my daughter at 17 years old as a senior in high school. Reading these statistics is daunting, but being the statistic is an entirely different story. My experience being a teen mom in high school was tough, I will admit, but not as difficult as others walking the same path as I. I was lucky enough to attend a high school that accommodated my situation and worked with me. I also had supportive friends and family that helped me a tremendous amount. I would not have been able to graduate without the support backing me up; many others in the same position do not have this support. When I was in my second year of college at Washtenaw Community College, I was doing a research paper on teen mothers. I thought of the idea of a scholarship for teen moms in high school. I made the realization that there are many scholarships for college-level education but not at the high school level. Having a high school diploma (or GED) is crucial to continuing to higher education and having an income that can support a family. Why weren't we supporting the mothers working towards their high school diploma? The stigma surrounding teen pregnancy and teen mothers puts barriers to success because of the negative and untrue stereotypes. There is no social policy supporting these mothers and their children because of politicians' harmful beliefs. Obtaining an education at any level a person desires, regardless of their reproductive history and the circumstances they came from, should be a right. We have seen that teen pregnancy rates here in the United States have fallen, but the high school dropout rate for teen moms has remained unchanged. It is common knowledge how important a high school diploma is for job prospects and having economic stability, but what about its impacts on subsequent generations? Children born to teen parents are also affected by performing worse on most school readiness measures and being more likely to drop out of high school themselves. Not having an education system set up to accommodate students with various responsibilities, like caregiving, will affect generations of children. Providing access to resources to complete at a minimum high school is imperative; completing high school is the gateway to further opportunities. My mission is to change this narrative and provide support to teen mothers who want to graduate high school and continue higher education.
The Plan Skip to a couple years later, I am now taking a class at Umich where I was assigned an Action Learning Project where I saw the perfect opportunity to get started on this project. I have teamed up with a non-profit named A Girl Like Me Inc to develop this scholarship program. Below is my plan of action for my project.
My Hope for the outcome of the project is a public understanding of the potential outcomes when a pregnancy is supported, and more importantly a teenage mom supported by the scholarship who is able to continue on with her educational goals. I want to challenge how we speak about teen pregnancy and talk about it as a more neutral matter of fact language. Your path looks different, but different is okay; different is not impossible. The way we talk about this subject matters because of who the subject is about, real people who choose to have children. The way articles are written surrounding teen mothers reinforces harmful stigmas and stereotypes. The whole narrative that is commonly pushed in the mainstream media does not cover teen mothers' lived experiences and stories. Stories about how a young mom who choose to keep and raise her child found a new purpose in their life, gained responsibility, strength, and motivation to improve their lives and the lives of their children; an experience I can personally attest to. These are real women and children affected by a stigma enforced by societal norms leading to negative attitudes towards teenage mothers. We push solutions about how to 'fix' this problem, but if we apply a reproductive justice framework to the 'problem' of teen pregnancy, is teen pregnancy the real problem? Or is it the uncompromising societal ideal that comes from outdated views putting up barriers for teen moms' success? My hope and mission is to change these views and provide support for even just one mom so she can also show her daughter, like I am showing mine, that an education is possible no matter your circumstances.