Kathleen Harrison Cook, BINGHAMTON
Family environment affects student success in the United States, a child drops out of school every nine seconds. This month WSKG is exploring the dropout crisis in a series we’re calling “9 seconds,” made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate initiative.
In our third report WSKG’s Kathleen Harrison Cook takes a look at family and cultural pressures that can make a student leave school.
Ambi: sound of rebecca with her daughter-
“tell em this.. one plus one is”. no, say it. say one plus one is”(baby) teooooo… rs good giirll..gimme ‘igh five (slap) gimme ‘igh five, you smart baby. ”
Rebecca Smith is a single mom who just had her 18th birthday. Her daughter, Amora Maya, will be two in another month. They live in a two bedroom second story apartment with a grocery store, drug store, park, library, and main bus stop all nearby. It”s been a long road for Rebecca to get here.
Rebecca is the oldest of nine kids. Her parents are divorced. As a young teen she was self conscious about her weight. She wanted to be cool and fit in, and she copied what she saw her cousins and friends doing…getting into drugs, skipping school, –and being obsessed with their boyfriends.
R-” I got pregnant in 9th grade …in April” K- Was it hard being in school? …
R- Pregnant” Oh my god yes. – it”s so embarrassing when you can”t fit into the desk””
Rebecca tried returning to Binghamton High School when her baby was 2 months old , but
“.. I wasnt focused on school. I was too worried about my daughters father. It had alot to do with me too” not just everything else I”m blaming it on” I didn”t want to cuz I was too lazy. ” half the time” and because I was really tired. I just wanted to be home and sleep. ”
Although Rebecca”s parents wanted her to graduate, her family history didn”t support that.
R- My Dad dropped out in 11th grade, my mom dropped out in the 8th grade. So it”s like, – NONE of my family”s actually graduated but my uncle”
“If people only… got to see a little of it they’d understand that these kids.. they’re not bad kids. They just grew up in a bad environment.”
That”s Colleen Wagner, Broome County”s head of services for runaway and homeless youth
“And I would say that probably 8 times out of 10 that that’s the case.”
Rebecca”s teachers tried giving her extra help, and called to get her up in the morning ” But Rebecca ended up leaving school 5 months after Amora was born. Eventually though, it was Amora who was the motivation for Rebecca to turn her life around.
R- “Like, some people say pregnancy makes it worse, but *I* feel like it was a blessing, “. My whole family, like, half of them are on welfare, the other half do stupid stuff to get money” the other half are just retarded. And I don”t want my daughter to be like that.”
Rebecca also had help from a special teacher ” Tia Rodriguez .
R- this one teacher I love her to death. ” if it wasn”t for her I wouldn”t never have changed my life.
Rodriguez: ” I loved her, and I KNEW she could be successful I truly did. Rebecca in particular I knew, had the ability to do great things and I”m sure she is going to be, and is, a great parent.”
Mrs. Rodriguez helped Rebecca get involved in a family literacy program for young parents without high school diplomas, and another program that taught parenting skills. A third program, Teen Transitional Living, set her up with an apartment, a bus pass, and other services.
R- “And when I got on my own, and I was just more independent.. it made me stronger and “.I felt like I could DO something. And I did!”
– Now Rebecca takes GED classes twice a week, and works at McDonalds..
R- I think, for being a teen mom I”m really really good. Because a lot of teen moms that I know (baby talks some underneath) don”t have a job, don”t HAVE their kids, and definitely don”t go to school, so they basically do Nuthin.
There are a lot of obstacles ahead. Rebecca says she feels guilty being away from her daughter ,she doesn”t see much of a future with Amora”s dad, and some of the programs that have helped her have lost their funding, Yet she”s determined to make it.
R- ” I KNOW I”m going to. I”m going to get my college degree and everything. I know that. Even if I”m thirty till I get it I”m still getting it. ”
Rebecca wants to become a baby nurse, caring for other mothers like the nurses did for her when she had Amora.
For WSKG, I”m Kathleen Harrison Cook
AMBI-“if you fall you fall”(fall on your butt ) baby says butt! ” you”re gonna Fall on your butt baby says BUTT again” C”mere, gimme a hand” c”mere babyyy”. awwwwww