“I truly didn’t know that I was pregnant; I didn’t find out until my aunt had me take every medical test known to man!” This was the story one of my students, Irene, shared with me 14 years ago as she explained her dilemma. At that time, I was a Site Coordinator working in the ELECT program at South Philadelphia High School. Communities in Schools of Philadelphia is one of the providers of the School District of Philadelphia’s ELECT Initiative serving teen parents. ELECT is a program under the guidance of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Over the years, I have heard many other similar stories from scared and confused teenagers. Fortunately, I have had the privilege to work side by side for 17 years now with a dedicated team of community partners, administrators and site coordinators here at Communities In Schools of Philadelphia. With every resource available, collectively we help pregnant teens and at-risk students figure out what’s next- showing them the possibilities of what their lives can become.
One of the focal points of our work is accomplished through the ELECT program which stands for Education Leading to Employment and Career Training. Aligned with our national office and affiliates, CIS of Philadelphia works with female and male parenting students in an unbiased and supportive atmosphere helping them earn their high school diploma or GED, paving the path to brighter future; A future that could easily be jeopardized without a diploma.
Much of what we do is case management, assisting and reevaluating students with their individual motivational plans-career, academic and personal goals. We make sure our students have created a Transition Plan, which is defined by the soon-to-be-graduate of what next steps they need to complete in their post-secondary life. We offer additional support for up to 120 days post graduation.
Living proof that the national Communities In Schools model works: Fourteen years later, Irene, our ELECT alum, who I am proud to say that I still maintain a one-on-one relationship with today, is a Manager for a national hotel chain. And she’s still reaching new heights. She recently earned an Associate’s degree in Hospitality Management. And I was there to share that special moment with her.
Happily married with two children, Irene has demonstrated to her own children that education is vital for economic sustainability and upwards career growth. Her eldest child, who was three when Irene graduated from high school is now 18 and is a senior at one of the top schools in Philadelphia. Her daughter will be graduating in June of 2015 and is visible proof that with Communities In Schools’ interventions we can Change the Picture of Education and have a meaningful impact on the next generation.
It is in breaking one cycle (teen parenthood) and beginning another (college education), that we begin to show longitudinal impact of the work of Communities In Schools staff.
‘Who am I?’ I am one of the many voices from Communities In Schools of Philadelphia. Although I don’t provide direct services these days, as a supervisor, I am still able to visit sites and administer policies for this generation of teen parents and their children. I help to debunk the stereotype of a teen parent and to show the world who they can become when surrounded by caring adults and a strong community of support.