Can’t is not a word in
The 22-year-old earned straight A’s and worked three part-time jobs while attending Simon Kenton High School
in Independence from where she graduated in 2008. She earned an associate’s degree in child development and a second associate’s degree in pharmacy technology. Now, she’s talking about buying her first home.
She also happens to be a single mother to a five-year-old daughter. Hughes immediately turned to her school when she found out she was pregnant the summer between her sophomore and junior year.
“I have no idea where I would be without the Kenton Child Development Program
. But I know I wouldn’t be where I am today,’’ says Hughes, who now works as the lead infant teacher at the program administered through Children, Inc. “The support you get here is amazing. “It’s a safe haven.”
Hughes is one of about 375 teen parents who have participated in the teen program, which is housed on the Simon Kenton High School campus but is open to all 13,907 students in the Kenton County School District, says Tina Cook, who has worked as teen parenting director since it started 15 years ago.
The program is part of Children, Inc.
, which is the largest private non-profit provider of child care in Kentucky. The group, celebrating its 35th year, serves 3,500 children each day at more than 90 locations, employs more 250 educators and works with more than 120 partners aimed at early childhood development.
The Kenton Child Development Center is one of those partners.
The program offers free child care to teen parents – complete with free diapers, food and education. But it is more than a day care center housed on a high school campus, Cook says.
“We look at this program as a foundation, not just for mom and dad, but for the baby as well,’’ says Cook, who has a background as a special education teacher. “There is a structured curriculum for everyone in this program; there are individualized education plans for the babies.”
Students are required to complete parenting classes, where they meet with nutritionists, experts in child development and a host of community members from dentists to attorneys who provide information to the young parents. Time is set aside for the students to interact with their children during their school day, as well.
The program also offers a school-to-work program. And about half of the students who graduate, go on to college and earn degrees; the program also offers a school-to-work program.
“These girls are amazing,’’ says Cook. “And between the school district and Children, Inc., we are taken very, very good care of.”
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By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of social and digital media at The Powers Agency, a public relations and advertising agency.