helping teenage mothers

I recently read about how the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing. The Detroit School Board decided that the school’s programming could be best served in other school. As a result, the school board decided to close the school. The school is set to close June 16, 2011.

I’m a graduate of the Detroit Public School System (Cass Technical High). Back long ago when I went to school, if a girl became pregnant, she went to her neighborhood school or Murray-Wright High School, or as we called it “Maternity Ward”. Every day girls would stand at the bus stop with their babies, books and strollers going to Murray-Wright. Me and my friends were like,okay, we aint doin that. Every morning, watching these girls, in the rain, cold ass winter, warm spring days, there they were standing there with strollers and babies, going to class. My friend K, who went to Murray-Wright, (who was childless) told stories about how her classmates would leave class to check on their babies. We thought, “aint no way in hell…” We loved our lives. Okay, despite the teenage angst that drove us, we all knew babies weren’t going to solve our problems. In fact, we knew a child or any thought of a child at this age would fundamentally shift our future. Unlike our fellow public school classmates, we sought information, all the information we could get our hand on for birth control. Word of mouth sent us all over the city for free condoms, birth control and medical services. Therefore we could not understand how the hell they became pregnant? didn’t they know? Did they not understand their lives were going to change? did they not understand that childbirth hurt? badly? yet time and time again, word would leak that so-and-so is pregnant. Damn. Really?  Of course, we’d had to go to the baby shower. Where we used our summer job or weekend job money to buy her gifts. We would watch as her mother, grandmother, aunts, female cousins would alternate between shaking their heads in disgust and cooing over our gifts of tribute. Every girl would talk about how fat she was, how much stuff she had, who was buy her the “big stuff” (crib, strollers) Typically, she would say the baby’s father, untimely, it was her parents. The guy just sorta fell off.

Then there was the ‘i’m going back to school at the next term, next fall, next spring, etc. We all said ‘Okay” and shook our heads. We knew she wasn’t. We knew that she’d probably get her G.E.D. and get a job. Those who did come back to barely finished, if they did at all. Those who could had to swallow their pride and go to Murray-Wright. Those who suck it up, go to their neighborhood schools, where they watch their baby’s daddy date her classmates.

Of course, who was going to watch baby LaQuan? Grandma? Grandma has a job. She’s gotta work because she’s the only person in the house with a job. Teen mom is getting welfare, which means Grandma has the case in her name because Mom is underage. Teen Mom now thinks she’s grown because she gave birth. Grandma says your grown when you and your kid get out of my house. Where is she going to go? Daddy is more than likely out of the picture. His parents? According to them, that’s not their grandchild. They aren’t doing a damn thing. Once the testing comes back, of course, they still may not do anything because they weren’t the one’s screwing to make that child.

Now things aren’t what they thought they would be. She’s got this baby. Her friends are going places. She can’t, she had the baby. When she does bring the baby, its a drag. We can’t do what we want to do dragging a baby along? She’s bored. Things aren’t what she ‘thought’ they would be. All the adults in her life have told her her life was over. She wasn’t going to amount to anything. Her childhood was now over when she got pregnant. The adults told her this was going to be hard, having a child, she didn’t believe them. Now that’s she’s knee deep, she’s scared, frightened, ashamed, embarrassed. feels played by the guy who told her he loved her and he’s now gone, or one foot out the door. He’s too young to be a father. He didn’t want the baby’s anyway. Its not his child, test or not.


This is where Catherine Ferguson comes it.  The Instructors teach the girls that yes, you have a child. Your life isn’t over. However, get your act together and create a healthy, positive  life for your child.

What does this mean? Education? Mentorship. Positive Reinforcement. A safe place. Since 1986 its done just that.

Now the school board wants to close this place. They say the programming at the school is being duplicated elsewhere. But are they getting the same results? Are the other programs at other schools offering their services city-wide or just in their school. Now teen mothers are going to have to go to their ‘neighborhood’ school. What about schools that don’t have teen mother programs? what about those students?

The school board is broke and in the hole. Deep in the hole. Why? mismanagement. Mismanagement.  Mismanagement. Ineptitude. Ego. Self-Indulgence. Corruption. Cronyism.

The icing on the case for me:  Otis Mathis is a functional illiterate who was voted president by his fellow school board members because he has “good people skills”.  Let’s not also forget the fact the former school board president  decided that playing with himself in front of the School’s superintendent was acceptable.

So now a school that is truly helping a segment of the student population who are the most vulnerable are victim to a school board that could never get it together in the first place.