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Teen parents stay on track

CHS program helps students graduate with their peers

Gabbie Blakeslee, 17, looks at sonographic pictures of her daughter, due April 2. She has used the services at the Teen Parent Program since the start of the school year.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Gabbie Blakeslee, 17, looks at sonographic pictures of her daughter, due April 2. She has used the services at the Teen Parent Program since the start of the school year.

December 30, 2013

INDEPENDENCE — Karina Tapia, 18, is on track to graduate with her four-year cohort. This may not seem extraordinary, but the Central High School senior has a nearly 8-month-old daughter, Isabella Escamilla, at home.

"I didn't want to be one of those teenagers that dropped out of school while having a child," she said at Central's Teen Parent Program center last month. "Being a teen parent doesn't mean you have to drop out of school."

Tapia transferred from McKay High School in Salem to be closer to her boyfriend and his family. She hoped to find easier day care options in Independence, but that's not always the case.

"There's times when people who said they would baby-sit my daughter, and then can't," she said. "Her dad's working, and I'm going to school."

Without a car, she needs to be within walking distance of day care.

Karina Tapia, 18, has not let having a baby stop her from achieving her goal of graduating from high school.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Karina Tapia, 18, has not let having a baby stop her from achieving her goal of graduating from high school.

Tapia and 15 other teen parents — including one teen dad — are making use of the Teen Parent Program to keep up with their coursework, in spite of the demands of a baby.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, there were 102 teen pregnancies from 2009-2011 in both Independence and Monmouth ZIP codes. Program director Bob McBeth said current participants in the program help recruit other teen parents.

The program uses online software called Odysseyware, which allows students to work at their own pace or even from home, McBeth said.

"Life happens," he said. "Having a baby, baby appointments — they can still work on their school work, because it's Web based."

He said the online program has helped teen parents graduate.

Gabbie Blakeslee, 17, was a bit scared when she found out she was pregnant last summer. She said the program will help her graduate.

"It's very helpful," she said. "I get a lot more things done. If I'm absent for (doctor) appointments and stuff, I can come here and work on my work, and not be behind."

For Blakeslee, day care isn't an issue yet.

The program used to house a day care center on site, but that aspect was cut about five years ago, McBeth said.

Central School District officials are working on getting day care services back to the school.

"We need it," Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said regarding day care for teen parents. "There's no doubt that we need it. … Getting those services are really important to me, but until you unlock the door and welcome the first kid in, it's not a done deal."

The program is unique in this area, allowing pregnant students and teen parents to continue their education at Central, rather than encouraging them to transfer to a community college.

"It does mean a lot to me," Blakeslee said. "I went to seven different schools in middle school. Not having to change schools is nice."

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