Preserve access to education, day care for Brewer teen moms

Posted Dec. 12, 2013, at 12:50 p.m.

Brewer High School is reconsidering its funding for the Good Samaritan Agency, a nonprofit organization that offers accredited education to mothers, ages 14-20. This is a wonderful alternative to regular high school for teen moms. It offers on-site support, day care and parenting classes, along with classes that meet the state’s requirements for graduation.

Up to this point Brewer High has paid part of the amount per student to the agency. Our new superintendent wants to make cuts in the budget. Recently, the Brewer school board decided it would only pay for five months in the Good Samaritan program for Brewer residents. It then wants students to be mainstreamed back to Brewer High School. This is not ideal. These girls no longer have the same interests as their peers; they have different pressures, different goals and completely different lives.

There are many concerns. Some girls have no transportation, so how will they get their children to day care and then themselves to school by 7:45 a.m.? Not to mention the course-work that would be piled on. Getting your homework done when your baby is having a cranky night is nearly impossible. Many teen moms don’t have the support of the family; they may live with a boyfriend or on their own.

The Good Samaritan program offers on-site day care, so students come to one place. If that was not available, the girls would likely fail out. At 15, the only choice they have is welfare, which opens up a whole new host of problems.

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The bottom line is this program cannot be cut in any way. Not one teen in the program at this moment has stated she would go back to Brewer High. They are being supported where they are. They are comfortable, and they work hard.

I was a teen mom. I had been out of school a year, heard about the program, and enrolled. I received my high school diploma. I had many challenges to face: At 17, I was living on my own with no parental stability, and most of the time I didn’t have a car. I needed much more support than Bangor High School could have offered me.

The support of the program allowed me to study with like-minded girls. We had the same goals in mind, and we were able to support one another. You can’t “mainstream” a new teen mom back into a conventional high school. We are talking about less than a handful of students each year. Let’s not look at this with our wallets. Let’s look at the success of the program.

Over 85 percent of Good Sam students go on to college or are working a good job, according to the agency. The facility provides a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. Girls don’t have to deal with bullies, peer pressure or any other foolish situations that come up at regular high schools. This allows them to focus on being a parent, gaining life skills and graduating.

Isn’t that our main goal — to see these teen mothers get their diplomas? Don’t we want them to get good jobs and even a college education?

Just because they are young mothers doesn’t mean they should have to give up on their dreams. Good Sam helps girls with that, encourages them, finds resources for them and enables them to stand on their own two feet. Let’s not let the bottom line dictate a program that has helped hundreds of young mothers fulfill their dream.

I urge the Brewer School Department to, please, stand up for what’s right. Keep Good Sam fully funded, so Brewer High School students get a fair chance.

Shelly Wood of Brewer has been a single mother for seven years. In addition to working several jobs, she is studying toward a degree in special education.

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