When I first arrived at Central Dallas I can remember regularly attending baby showers for single teen moms. I remember how much throwing grand parties for teen moms bothered me. After several conversations with other adults, we decided to begin trying to turn the tide by throwing big celebrations for high school graduates instead.
Shantaye was the first. She has now graduated from Texas Southern and is furthering her education by enrolling in classes that will allow her to apply to grad school to be a dietician.
I don't know how much our change in celebrations really influenced anyone. Maybe it just made me feel better. Fact is, though, we have more kids in college than we have teen pregnancies. As an aside: though unwed teen pregnancies still frustrate me, my stance has softened quite a bit since I first came.
My friend, Seun, was one who helped us decide to turn the tide. However, Seun has an even harsher stance than I do. He believes we shouldn't celebrate unwed teen pregnancies, but he also believes that we shouldn't celebrate high school graduations. He thinks celebrating a high school graduation is too low of an expectation. In his mind, high school is just a means to an end. College graduations, he says, is what we need to be celebrating...and nothing less.
I am happy to say that Seun's vision is beginning to come true.
Many of our kids are enrolled in college. That's great! But as I was talking to Fredrick over Spring Break, it dawned on me that our kids are beginning to see high school as part of their education...not the end. In fact, many of them are starting to even look at their undergraduate courses as just a beginning. For example:
Fredrick, a sophomore Communications major at Lamar University, talks in terms of what he what he plans to do in grad school...either get his MBA or a Public Administration degree. In his mind, grad school is the first stopping place. Who knows what he will do after that.
Jessica, a sophomore Education major at Texas A & M-Commerce, called the other day excited to tell me that she found out her foster care grant will cover her entire education up to her doctorate as long as she goes straight through without stopping. She was so excited and plans to finish every last bit of it...all the way to her doctorate!
Nazareth, a 9th grade student at Skyline high school, already talks in terms of getting her doctorate.
Kieva, a senior Political Science major at Stephen F. Austin, will graduate in August and figures she will continue working on her Master's degree in the fall.
Those are just a few.
Consider the facts here for those who have
a bachelor's degree or higher:
Collin County (the northern suburbs of Dallas)--45.9%
Northern Sector (of Dallas)--36.78%
Southern Sector (of Dallas)--10.05%
South Dallas/Fair Park area--5.68%
Consider the connection between
educational attainment and median earnings:
less than high school--$23,176
(statistics found at www.census.gov and www.analyzedallas.org)
I can't tell you the exact percentages of the kids we have had contact with over the years who are now enrolled in college, but I'm pretty sure it's higher than the percentages for our area, the "Southern Sector" in general and "South Dallas" more specifically, and I keep watching the numbers increase year after year.