Last year the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit was examined and lauded for its progressive approach to the problems facing teenage girls who are pregnant and wish to remain in school. While there are various programs in this area as well as elsewhere to support young women who are alone, expecting a child and in need financially and otherwise, this school took the innovative steps of preparing the future mothers to become independent following childbirth. We desperately need more institutions like Catherine Ferguson Academy if these families are ever going to have any hope of getting out of poverty and despair.
So what’s happened since the film that was made, “Grown in Detroit”, and praised internationally, showcasing this unique establishment where the students were taught urban farming skills as well as parenting, nutrition, budgeting and all the necessary education to continue with their lives and even set up those of their children? The worst possible thing: the school is closing. Just another budget cut in the Detroit Public Schools system? Or a disaster that will echo for decades in the lives of the families affected? What, after all, is the ultimate result when those with little hope, who are given some, find it taken away from them?
The young mothers and their babies now face the fact that they will not be able to complete the path they had begun toward a healthy, sustainable future. The students will have a difficult time finding a way to graduate without interruption. Those who had been learning valuable life skills as well as receiving practical vocational training will end up facing the same difficulties as all single mothers: needing affordable child care while they go to low-paying jobs (if they find any at all) that don’t cover basic necessities. So, instead of continuing to treat the problems of young pregnant girls in a holistic, progressive way as this school has done, the system has once again decided that it’s far better to just chop off any program that involves a cost that they only see on the surface. Never mind the cost to the lives of these girls and their families, not to mention to society and Detroit altogether. A “let them eat cake” attitude if ever there was one.
The students did put up some protests in reaction to the school’s closing, but police action was the response by the school board. See this web link, from Detroit Evolution, concerning the results of that incident, complete with photos:
It’s not likely at this point the damage is going to be reversed. However, there’s always the possibility that some group, somewhere in the Detroit area, will find it in their hearts and wallets to open an independent school offering the same options to pregnant teens. Some people, who only look on the surface at the issue of teen pregnancy, shrug it off by saying they ought to simply abort their babies. Others, instead, look at the long-range effects on the girls, their extended family and friends involved, and the problems that led to their situation in the first place, and see other, more positive, solutions. It all begins with education, at any rate, to show these teenagers that they can have a better future for themselves and their offspring. Learning to take care of themselves, their children (both now and in the future), and learning skills to become self-sufficient, is the way to solve the problems they face.