Batesville High School lends support to teen moms - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Batesville High School lends support to teen moms

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Fewer teenagers are having children these days, but Arkansas still ranks near the top of the list of states with the highest teen pregnancy rates.

Teenaged moms are more likely to drop out of school, too, but one high school is working to prevent that.

Batesville High School started a support group two years ago just for teen moms, like 17-year-old Debra Griffith.

Griffith recently began her senior year of high school in Batesville. Instead of just worrying about her own future, she's now got to think about her son's as well.

"I just like having him there with me," she said about her son, Camden. "He makes me happier than anything possibly could."

Griffith had her son when she was just 15 years old. When she first got pregnant, she thought she would have to drop out of school to take care of him, but she's stuck with it thanks to her supportive family. The experience, she says, has been anything but easy.

 "You just have to not give up," she said. "You have to want it."

She's also counted on the support group that Leigh Keller, the high school guidance counselor, helped start exclusively for teen moms.

During the past few years, Keller says she noticed more and more teenaged students having children or getting pregnant. As a mother herself, she thought these girls needed some support, too.

"A lot of the things they were struggling with, I was thinking you know there should be something to help you guys," Keller said.

The first year the support group formed, it initially attracted eight teen moms. The group grew to 14 girls last year, and now five meet each month and discuss different things like discipline. That issue is particularly important to Griffith at the moment since her son is in his "terrible twos."

"I have friends," Griffith said, "but they don't exactly understand where I'm coming from, and they don't really have anything to say back. It's kind of awkward actually, so it's good to have girls around you that are going through the same thing."

Keller says the intent is not to harp on the negative, but look at what's positive instead.

"We don't have to sit and say oh, you did something wrong," Keller said. "What we try to focus on is the positive – okay, you have a child – let's talk about how to raise that child."

"Our goal is to make sure that they graduate from high school without having another child," she added. "Number one, we want them to graduate. We want them to finish and have some tools to be able to have a successful life after high school."

Griffith says her son has helped her take school more seriously because she wants to go to college.

"In order to be successful whenever I get out of college and everything, I don't really have a lot of money to just pay, pay, pay," she said, "so I have to work really hard to keep my grades up and make sure that I have a future for me and my son."

Even though she would not trade the life she now has with her son, Griffith wants other girls to either wait before they have sex or be extremely careful.

"It's life-changing," she said about having a baby. "It makes [life] very hard."

In addition to school and raising her son, Griffith works 30 hours a week at a local restaurant. She's unsure what she'd like her career to be, but next year she hopes to study at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly