“It is certainly the end of childhood for the mothers,” explains Sally Kilton, YMHS Teen Parent Advisor. “We support these young parents through their rather quick transition into parenthood.”
This is accomplished in a program that has been developed by the school’s principal Leigh McGown over the past 25 years. At its heart is a nurturing environment where student parents continue their studies in the building where their children are cared for throughout the school day.
“This isn’t just childcare,” explains Laura Carmichael Smith, the school’s social worker and pottery and comprehensive health teacher. “We support these parents in becoming their child’s first teacher, helping them see that their child absorbs everything they do. So we guide them in connecting and playing with their child throughout the school day.”
During parent-child time, cell phones go into a basket. Mothers nurse, bottle or spoon-feed their children and play or read a book. During Teen Parent classes, the students learn about early childhood development, attachment styles, children’s literacy, how to self-soothe and how to manage issues like anger or depression.
They work with Donna Holley, the school’s college advisor / teen parent counselor who helps them plan their next steps beyond graduation, following their interests and applying for scholarships. “We ask students what world they want to live in, and then help them create it for themselves,” Holley says.
“Becoming a parent is a humbling journey in itself,” said April Moon, the school’s student liaison. “Becoming a parent while you are still a child is this tenfold, but our student parents aren’t in it alone.”
In celebration of Mother’s Day, Mountain Parent asked photographer Sarah Kuhn to create portraits of these mothers with their children. Learn more about Sarah’s work HERE.