by Shayna Han
The things that tie us together are our stories. It’s how we hold ourselves up each morning, how we face the day, how we vocalize our hopes and dreams, how we tuck our children in at night. Shared stories define our religious beliefs. Stories make us feel alive when the world around us is uninspiring and draining.
Last week I attended a Congressional briefing on “Title IX, Pregnant and Parenting Students, and ESEA: Supporting Young Parents to Achieve Their Educational Goals.” A panel of speakers, including experts, advocates, and young mothers spoke in support of the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (S.870/H.R.1845). This act seeks to provide consistent grant funding for support services in school districts that will remove many of the barriers pregnant and parenting students face while striving to stay in school and to earn their diplomas.
The most intriguing voices in that room during the briefing were those of the teen mothers. Unlike the stereotypes society allows us to believe, a pregnant high school student has not reached “the end of the road” and is neither an “afterthought” nor a “failure.” One young woman talked about having everyone in her corner one day as a high school student with a 4.0 GPA, but after finding out she was pregnant, she lost all that support. Another talked about the Parent Education and Responsive Life Skills program (PEARLS), a program that enables pregnant students to continue their education and raise their children by providing them with the practical guidance so necessary to navigating family health care, food and housing assistance, child care, family planning and other community resources for new parents.
In the cases of the young women who spoke, their courage, diligence and strength of character increased because of their pregnancies – their children became a motivation to do better not only for themselves, but in order to ensure their kids would succeed as well. Thanks to programs like those supported under the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act, these young women graduated from high school and are now seeking higher learning. They dream of great accomplishments in their lives and demonstrate stories of a successful life beyond a teen pregnancy. If passed, this legislation would help even more students accomplish their dreams and raise well-supported, well-grounded families.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice proudly supports the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act. Please contact your elected officials and encourage them to support this family-positive legislation.
FYI: The US Dept. of Education just released a new resource called “Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students.” Please share this with any teachers and school officials you know. Young mothers deserve compassion and support and this is a great starting place!
Shayna is currently studying history at a college in the Northeast not far from where she was raised. She is interning for RCRC this summer through the Machon Kaplan Program of the Religious Action Center.