Teen pregnancy is on the rise around the country, according to recent national surveys. East Texas is no exception. Tyler ISD says it has seen nearly 100 cases since the school year began. Administrators say many end up dropping out of school. But an alternative campus is helping teenage mothers graduate.
Erika Lara is 18 and the mother of a 1-year-old. April Grandt has a 3-month-old daughter at age 17. Both are single moms looking for help to raise their children. April says her baby's father isn't even in the picture -- a situation Phyllis Tindel, program manager for the Teenage Parenting Program at Pace High School, says is not unique.
"We do definitely have many more young ladies becoming pregnant being school age at the same time. The alarming rate right now is the very young ladies, ages 14, 13," Tindel said.
She says an alarming number of young fathers are not consistently involved with their babies. Pace provides a way for these young ladies to continue their education and have their baby taken care of at the same time, at the same place.
"I help them get medical appointments. We help them with transportation and child care," Tindel said.
April said Tindel and Pace H.S. has been a big help to her and other single moms: "At John Tyler, I wouldn't have proper care for Kayleigh because my parents and dad, they work at nighttimes, so I decided to come so Kayleigh and I can be more closer together."
Erika agrees: "I like it because the classrooms are right here, and if the babies are sick, they can just go get you out of your class."
April and Erika are two of 52 teenage moms who have chosen to attend class at Pace. The other 39 moms are staying at the regular campuses within TISD.
"It is not unusual to sometimes have three new names in a day," Tindel said.
She says she has 12 more pregnant students waiting to be interviewed for the Pace program. Pace High School is not only for pregnant students, but for all students at risk of dropping out. Students there are required to complete the same number of credits as they would at a regular high school to graduate.