Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If you actually want to close the achievement gap...

An excellent story from KPCC's Take Two. Considerably more effective in the audio version if you have the time.
Teenager Michelle Zamora has big dreams to become a civil engineer.

“Since 4th grade,” Zamora says, “I told myself I want to go to Stanford University.”

Zamora would be the first in her family to go to college, and as a self-described “smart kid,” Stanford never seemed too far-fetched an idea.

But at age 15, Michelle Zamora made a mistake: she got pregnant. And her dreams of college seemed to vanish.

Like thousands of other California teens, Zamora dropped out of high school.

She is among the majority of the state's teen moms --83%-- that come from low-income households. According to the California Department of Education, the state ranks number one nationwide with its rate of pregnancy among teens.

The worst part, she said, was the way most people assumed she was condemned to future that she didn’t want. People told her “well, you’re just going to be another teenager on welfare,” or “you’re not going to make it.” Zamora started to believe them.

And then she found out about a program in Baldwin Park that has given her renewed hope.

In the late 1990s, officials in the Baldwin Park Unified School District worried that they were losing too many students due to pregnancy. Using federal Early Head Start funds, the district launched an innovative program to ensure teen moms could stay in school.

When Zamora’s daughter was born in 2011, a friend told her about North Park high school which provides on-site daycare so teen moms and dads can complete coursework.

A Continuation high school, North Park enrolls students who failed or dropped out, but now want to finish high school. Its child care program is one of 18 at high schools across Los Angeles county that cater to teen parents. Since 1999, about 60% of North Park students have graduated and gone on to higher education.

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