GRADS program advances teen parents to graduate
Socorro is the headquarters of the state wide office of the New Mexico Graduation Reality and Dual-Role Skills — NM GRADS — program, which has 26 active sites in New Mexico that help teen parents, both male and female, graduate from high school, said associate director of finance for NM GRADS Jeanne Johnston. The headquarters oversees all the other sites and their NM GRADS programs at the high schools.
High schools must show interest in order to have the NM GRADS program as one of their courses, Johnston said.
Last year, there were 12 students enrolled in the NM GRADS program at Socorro High School.
According to the NM GRADS website, GRADS began as an in school program for teenage parents. The NM GRADS mission statement is to facilitate parenting teens’ graduation and economic independence, promote healthy multi-generational families and reduce risk-taking behaviors.
“We help them get back in school,” Johnston said. “They have a choice to do better in their education. We help them graduate to college. That’s our goal.”
According to the NM GRADS website, the NM GRADS program is a teen parenting program that helps its students learn how to balance work and family roles and prepare students for work and careers to gain economic independence. The goals for NM GRADS is to help teen parents graduate, reduce teen pregnancies, develop positive parenting skills, develop skills for healthy relationships and prepare students for work and careers.
Johnston said for the 2011-12 school year, NM GRADS teachers in New Mexico worked with 613 teen parents enrolled in the NM GRADS program and had a 79 percent graduation rate for 2012. She said there is an on-site child care center for students enrolled in the GRADS program at Socorro High School.
The biggest barrier for students, Johnston said, was that students would stay home with their child because there was no child care available at their school. With the NM GRADS program at the school, it provides a safe place to bring their child and students also get an education, she said. Students get to see positive parenting techniques in the child care center. The center works with all ages, from newborn to 3 years old, and some go up to 5 years old, depending on the site, Johnston said.
“We teach them the importance of prenatal care.” Johnston said.
The GRADS program started in Ohio in 1989 and New Mexico was the first state to replicate the program and add child care to the program, Johnston said. Other states have duplicated the Ohio version of the GRADS program, and have added child care to their programs as well, she said. Teen parents who aren’t in GRADS can contact the high school to discuss signing up. It is a support group for them, Johnston said. GRADS gives school presentations to administrators who are interested in bringing the program for their school. Referrals to the program can come from counselors, teachers and community partners, she said.
For more information about GRADS at Socorro High School contact Charlene Savedra at 835-0700 or visit the website http://www.nmgrads.org/.