Teen Pregancy and the Importance of Education

Pregnant at 15! 

I am a 41 year old teen mom!  I have a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology and a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice.  I am a National Sales Manager for an educational software company.   I have always seen education as a vehicle that would take me places I had never been.  I still believe that today.  Education saved me at 16 and it still saves me at 41. 

I had a baby girl in 1985.  The same month she was born Time Magazine ran a story on the growing problem of teen pregnancy.  I will never forget sitting in a class at the all girls Catholic school I attended and listening to the teacher ask for our thoughts on teen pregnancy.  Everyone looked at me but at that point I had too much to say but no way to say it.  I was still processing how it was that I ended up pregnant in the suburbs. 

That’s an important distinction.  In the middle 80’s girls in the suburbs were not getting pregnant.  Let’s be clear, they were getting pregnant but having abortions.   I watched friend after friend after friend get pregnant; and because their parents had the means, they terminated their pregnancies all in an effort to protect their educational opportunities.   That never sat well with me. 

My parents demanded that I stayed in school.  They made sure that I did.  It was the only demand they placed on me when we were discussing whether I should keep her or give her up for adoption.  Up until the day before I left the hospital I planned on giving her up for adoption.  The counselor at Catholic Charities was drooling for a healthy 8 pound white baby.  After many discussions with my parents it was decided that I would keep her and stay in school.  We would raise her as a family. 

I was forced to tell the counselor myself when the next day she showed up to take my baby.  I was alone and she looked me straight in the eyes and told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life.  I would never be anything but a high school drop out!  I knew deep in my soul that I would be much more than a high school drop- out and so would my daughter.

Frankly in my opinion this question is a little condescending.  Why is it important for any child to finish high school?  Why is that the end of the expectation?  Why not ask the question:  Why it’s important for a teen parent to get a college degree?

These days’ teen parents have so much support.  There are schools with day-care centers built in them, and they are not just serving inner city youth any longer.  Our society finally realized that the problem isn’t isolated and only in the city but in fact it is as big of a problem in the suburbs as well.  There is absolutely no reason why a child should drop out after having a baby.  None, zip, nada! In today’s society a high school diploma means nothing.  In fact it is those without college degrees that are taking the biggest hit in this recession.  It is simply no longer possible to support a family at any age with only a high school education which in my opinion begs the question of why don’t we make college more accessible to the working class? 

Let’s also ask the question: why is it important for children of teenage parents to graduate from high school and get a college degree?  I know it was for me. I knew I would be saved by education but I also knew that society expected both of us to fail. That we would amount to nothing more than welfare addicts.  My daughter’s entire life she heard me tell her that society expects her to fail but I expect you to be better than your friends whose parents were not teen parents.  I modeled that behavior as well…I was in college when she was 7 on.  Most of the 20 page papers I had to write were written with her at my feet playing house under the desk.  Doing homework together at the table, going to college classes with me when I couldn’t find a babysitter; all of this contributed to her future; not just mine.  I truly believe it’s why she is a very productive member of society today. 

At 25 she has a degree in Business from a University in Colorado.  An amazing job, wonderful husband, great credit….and lives right down the street from her Mommy!  Every child should finish high school and go on to college; especially teen parents both for themselves, and their child, but also to prove to the world that your decision to have your baby and keep your baby does not mean that you just made the worst decision of your life.