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The majority of teenagers who become pregnant never graduate from high school. This month Jim Hummel goes inside a Rhode Island charter school aimed squarely at pregnant/parenting teens - and those who may have dropped out of other high schools for a variety of other reasons - giving them a support system to work toward graduation. We hear from faculty, staff, a graduate of the Nowell Leadership Academy, and several students who say they now don’t want to stop at a high school diploma.
For more information about the Nowell Leadership Academy, click here.
On a Friday afternoon, at the end of the school day, Gioconda Ruiz and Krissia Barraza head out the back door, ready to start their weekend. Before heading home, though, they have a stop to make.
The two walk 50 feet into an adjacent building and down the hall - where Gioconda’s 6-month-old daughter is taking a nap and Krissia’s 9-month-old son is getting one last diaper change.
The young women are two of the 80 high school students who attend the Nowell Leadership Academy just off Manton Avenue in Providence. Another 80 go to Nowell’s Central Falls near the Pawtucket line.
Nowell is a public charter school, founded by the YWCA of Rhode Island in 2013, with a primary mission of helping pregnant and parenting students to graduate from high school. And others who may have washed out at another school.
Rosemary: ``A lot of our students have been, on average, to two or three other high schools in the state of Rhode Island. So Nowell is very unique in that we really try to hold onto to these kids.’’
Rosemary Miner is a science teacher at the Central Falls campus. A graduate of the Brown University Medical School, who became a flight surgeon in the Army, Rosemary was looking to get back into the work force after spending 22 years raising three children of her own. She said Nowell appealed to her because she gets to teach - and affect two generations at the same time.
Rosemary: ``Nowell is a challenge, Nowell is unique, but in many ways Nowell is like any place trying to give young people the very best education and the best opportunities to go forward.’’
Johanny: ``It’s complicated and it’s hard when you’re a parent at a young age and you’re on your own.’’
Johanny Toribio knows. She was having a child at age 19 just as Nowell was opening four years ago.
Johanny: ``It’s tough when you have to walk here and you don’t have no type of transportation to get to school. If you have a job because you’re the only parent to support your kid and provide for them. It’s tough in every single way, because sometimes you’ve got to choose: should I finish school or do I take care of my kid?’’