Like most graduation ceremonies, Thursday afternoon’s Hope Academy commencement was filled with tears, hugs and words of wisdom. But among the audience of proud family and friends were some very special guests: the graduates’ young children, who had learned beside them.
Hope Academy, a service of the Family and Children’s Center, offers a free alternative education program for pregnant or parenting mothers ages 14 to 21, with a curriculum divided between schooling, hands-on parenting and independent living skills. Children accompany their mothers to school each day, receiving edu-care and plenty of time to bond. While nationally less than 40 percent of teen moms complete high school, Hope Academy boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. All five members of this year’s senior class are leaving with a GED or high school diploma, along with a readiness to take on jobs, finances and personal obstacles.
“When I heard of Hope Academy, I thought it was the best thing ever,” said graduate Joslyn Mitchell, 18, who attended Caledonia High School her junior year. “What got me was I could bring my daughter with me. She would cry when I left for school, and I always felt really bad.”
While Mitchell studied math and science, daughter Rose, 2, was nearby participating in pre-school prep activities with the other students’ kids, joining her mother for sessions on healthy parenting. Mitchell appreciated the family atmosphere of the school, and the impact it had on both her and Rose.
“Until I went here, it was extremely hard to balance. They’re not like normal teachers here — they make education entertaining,” Mitchell said. “I’ve learned a lot from them, I learned budgeting … I’m really thankful to have learned about that stuff. And honestly, I feel my daughter has grown a lot. She’s talking so much more, she’s…