By Natalie Conrad
Herald Sports Writer
Only about 50 percent of teen mothers from across the country receive a high school diploma by the age of 22, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Women’s Health Services is working to help young mothers succeed through graduation and beyond.
“It’s important for these girls to know that there are others going through the same things they are and to be able to build healthy relationships and self-esteem,” Health Educator Shaley Maher said.
Teen mothers learn how to care for their children and build relationships, while educators get the chance to reach out and help prevent future pregnancies through the Teen Success Program. Women are referred to the program at Lincoln High School and meet with the support group each week during the school year.
Women’s Health Services has facilitated the program for several years, but had to discontinue the program briefly last school year due to lack of funding. Luckily, CEO Joanne Hermiston secured a grant and the program was brought back last spring. This school year, educators contacted Hermiston asking to expand the program, by not only reaching out to current mothers, but those who may be at risk of getting pregnant.
“This is primarily for those who already have a child to prevent them from having another, but it also is to help other teens who are at risk of getting pregnant,” Hermiston said.
Each week the group discusses a variety of topics from sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted diseases to building supportive relationships and developing skills to succeed after high school.
Only 62 percent of teens in sixth, eighth and 11th grades across the state report family involvement and support, according to a 2008 Iowa Youth Survey. Hermiston and Shaley are hoping the group offers support to those who may not get much help at home.
“We want to give them the support they need to work towards their high school diploma and help them with important decision-making,” Hermiston said. “The school has been very receptive and the girls continue to come back and learn more.”