Amber Boudreaux’s junior year of high school could have begun a bit differently than the one she started last month at Northside High School.
“I probably would have stayed at home and home-schooled because I wouldn’t have had a babysitter,” Boudreaux, 17, said.
Instead, the teen mom attends Northside High School — along with her 16-month-old daughter Kaylee St. Julien. While Boudreaux attends classes, Kaylee goes to the child care center on the campus.
The school system opened the family and child development center in January with seven teen mothers, and the child care center opened this school year.
To date, there are 19 teen moms and 11 children ages 6 months to 2 years old in the program, said June Inhern, the school system’s assistant director of early childhood education.
The program’s goal is to keep teen parents in school while providing them the resources and support to develop their parenting skills, said Brenda Poche, an early interventionist who works with the teen mothers and children in the program.
As part of the program, the teens take a daily 30-minute class focused on developing their parenting skills. Topics range from discipline and developing early language to therapy through play and the importance of daily routines, Poche said.
The program has had a slow start and a rough beginning with some board members initially denying the funding needed for renovations to get it off the ground.
The program was proposed for 32 students and their children, but was cut in half after some school board members rejected the expense of $205,000 needed to renovate two portable buildings for the program. Later, board members approved an expense of $100,000 to renovate one portable building for a child care center. Instructional and child care costs are paid for by state and federal funds.
The teens and their children ride to and from school together on a school bus. Previously, they’d pack and unpack their car seats on and off the bus. But on Friday, the teen parenting program received a donation of car seats from Women’s & Children’s Hospital for the designated, mini-bus that transports students and their children in the program.
While the teen parents are in class, their children receive care in the child development center on the campus. The teen parents have access to their children during a 30-minute window when they take a parenting class. The parenting classes are in a separate building adjacent to the child development center.
Junior Olivia Armstead is mom to 15-month-old twins Kylie and Rylie. After school Friday, she stood in the child development center with her book bag strapped to her back and a child held on each hip.
“It’s less stressful knowing that I have somewhere to send them,” Armstead said.
In the parenting classes, Armstead said she’s learned recently about infant massages and what to do when babies are sick.
The goal of the program is also to prepare the teen moms for life after school. Talks on preparing for college, how to pay for it and child care resources are part of the program, too.
“I didn’t realize that I could go to college and live on campus with my child,” Boudreaux said. “We’re learning about grants and how to pay for college.”
Boudreaux didn’t let go of her goals to go to college after having Kaylee, but said she did think she’d have to put it off until her daughter got older. Her plan is to attend South Louisiana Community College because she wants to work as a medical assistant.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.