Graduation season is upon us and teenagers nationwide are celebrating their academic achievements and the start of exciting new chapters in their lives. While applauding their accomplishments, activists across the country are thinking about the needs of an overlooked demographic: teen mothers.
According to a 2012 report (PDF) by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and America’s Promise Alliance, only 40 percent of teenage mothers graduate high school. The reasons for these low rates vary from student to student. A study published in February by the African American Policy Forum found that teen mothers are often pushed out of school by staff that encourage them to drop out, strict attendance policies and zero-tolerance discipline methods.
Last month, Trameka Pope, a teen mother from Chicago, defied those odds to become the valedictorian of her graduating class. Pope was homeless in grade school and became pregnant in the eighth grade. A cheerleader who works two jobs, she has excelled academically throughout high school. Thanks to her hard work and the support she received from her teachers and counselors, she was accepted into 27 universities and has been awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships. Pope is the perfect example of what young mothers can achieve if given the right support and resources.