Teen parents learn value of continuing education

Alexia Harris

Rachel Anderson, Director of Adult Student Services, talks with teen mothers about their post-high school plans during yesterday’s Teen Parent Mentoring Day. The day-long event hosted speakers and tours designed to introduce teen mothers to higher educati

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Governance Chambers was filled yesterday morning with high school students who have full-time jobs — as parents.

The Kent State University Upward Bound PREP Academy hosted its annual Teen Parent Mentoring Day, which helps teenage parents from high schools in Northeast Ohio learn the importance of higher education.

The students, who were joined with Kent State students who are also parents, shared their experiences on how to succeed and survive college life.

“I hope the students gain knowledge about college life, in particular college life at KSU and the opportunities that earning a degree can give,” said Bonnie Richardson-Berry, assistant director of the Upward Bound Program and PREP Academy.

Geraldine Hayes Nelson, associate dean of undergraduate studies, started the program by telling the mothers and fathers that they were there for a reason.

“You’re here because you have a strong support system and people who care about you,” Nelson said.

Nelson stressed to the students that college is a valuable option, and they must look at education beyond high school.

“We want you to know that transitions can be made,” Nelson said. “Education is necessary.”

Akima Muhammad, senior fashion design and merchandising major, gave the students words of encouragement from first-hand experience.

“I’ve been a student as long as I’ve been a mother,” Muhammad said. “Believe me, it’s not as hard as it seems.”

She told the students getting her four-year degree is her third career try, but she wanted a better life for both her daughter and herself.

Muhammad told the students to listen to their professors and advisers because they have been where the students are now.

“Spend your time with people who want it just as bad as you do,” Muhammad said. “I look at my daughter every day and think that this is for her.”

Fran Dorsey, Pan-African studies associate professor, later gave the students a motivational speech reinforcing the idea that “they are somebody.”

“You were born somebody and the only person who can make you not be important is you,” Dorsey said.

He also told the students they must believe in themselves, because if they don’t, then they can’t expect others to believe in them either.

“Why do you deal with guys who treat you like dirt?” Dorsey asked.

Dorsey responded with anger when one participant answered, “Because we love them.”

“No, you think you love them, but where are they in your life right now?” Dorsey asked. “If they loved you, they would be there.”

Program participant Stephanie Hernandez, a Southview High School senior, has a daughter and is currently six months pregnant.

“It’s really hard,” Hernandez said. “But I want to do something better for myself and my children.”

There have been people who told me I wouldn’t succeed, and that hurt, Hernandez said.

“When people tell me that I can’t make it, it’s discouraging, but I know that I can’t let it get me down.”

She believes the program was a great idea and needed to let teen parents know they can do something more with their life than just sit at home.

Dorsey said that simply attending the event was important.

“By coming here you took the first step, but the question is, when will you take the second?” Dorsey said.

Hernandez said the day inspired her.

“I am not going to stop going to school,” Hernandez said. “Regardless of the circumstances, I want to show everybody that doubted me (that) I made it.”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected].