Keeping teen moms in school
By Kendal Bates
That, in a nutshell, describes the purpose of Logan North Campus: keeping teen-age mothers in school.
But "Sue,"another North Campus student, says it's more than just keeping teen mothers in school. "They can help you catch up on credit, not just keep you in school." she says. "If you're behind from other years, they help us catch up and graduate."
That is the main goal of the school, says teacher Marsha Peterson, who has taught at North Campus for nine years. Peterson said most of the girls will have to start work to support their families, so they really need to graduate.
Debbie Meppen, who has been with the school for12 years and is its director as well as a teacher, said the school was founded in 1969. It serves both Cache and Logan school districts, and both provide its funding. She and Peterson teach about 40 girls each year, Meppen said.
North Campus was originally designed to help young mothers learn domestic responsibilities to help raise their children, says Meppen, but about 10 years ago the philosophy began to center more around education and helping the girls earn their diplomas.
Meppen says the graduation rate is 85 to 90 percent, and for those who don't complete enough credits for a diploma a support system exists to make sure the girls come in contact with adult education.
"If they're going to need significant help to finish, the support is there so that they're not left hanging," says Meppen. She said about 10 percent of their young mothers go on to college, but that most get some type of vocational training and enter the workforce.
The curriculum at North Campus is the same as the other schools in the valley but they're altered a little to better suit the needs of the girls. Meppen says that in health class, for example, the required curriculum is covered but is expanded to include instruction for pre-natal health. And in history, which Meppen teaches, they study women historical figures along with the other required information, showing the girls what different women have accomplished in society.
Meppen and Peterson are the only teachers at the school and are not certified to teach subjects such as math, physical education, or art, so the girls attend Logan High School for those subjects.
While they are studying, women working in a nursery in the building take care of their children. Meppen said that the nursery is provided free, sparing the mothers the cost of child care.
Peterson says that the young mothers keep their infants with them in class until the babies are four months old. They are are encouraged to breast feed and bond with their babies. After four months, the children are placed in the nursery during school hours.
There is also free laundry available. "If the girls want to put a load in at the first of class," says Meppen, "and go switch it to the dryer at the end of the next class, that's fine. Anything to help 'em out."
Sue says her own mother "praises this place. She just thinks it's the coolest thing, and it really is." One of the benefits of North Campus for young women is that it's all girls, Sue says. She says that they're all in the same situation, which removes a lot of negative peer confrontation.
"You can come to school and you're not worried how you look. You're not here to impress people, we're all here to graduate." Sue also enjoys the smaller class size, which she says gives her more one-on-one attention.
Meppen and Peterson both chose to work at the school. When asked why they decided to work at North Campus instead of at one of the regular schools, Peterson said that because of the subject matter that she teaches, parenting and money management, that she thought it would be fun, because the girls need that.
"They ought to be interested in pregnancy, because they're pregnant," Peterson said. "They ought to be interested in child development, because they're going to have a child." She also said that many of them would have to support themselves, or help their husbands support their family and that money management would be vital.
Meppen said she had substituted at North Campus after she graduated from college. "I loved it. You just see some real differences made in lives.
"Some kids, it's very rewarding to see them graduate from high school, get a job or go to college, instead of dropping out. What a difference for them and their child...I won't teach anywhere else."
Besides their teaching duties, Meppen and Peterson also assist the girls in applying for Pell grants, financial assistance for rent, or helping them to escape abusive situations.
"Lucy," another student who also did not wish her real name to be used, echoed what her classmates had said earlier: "I wouldn't go to school if this place wasn't here."
That seems to be the main purpose of Logan North Campus. "They can
stay at their own school, but this gives them a good alternative because
of the things we offer," Peterson said.