Charter school for teen parents opens in September

Jan 29, 2020 | Blog, Featured, News

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sometimes kids can be a handful. Imagine being a teen parent, having to juggle school, your child and possibly work. A new charter school opening this fall is hoping to help.

Some days, for 15-year-old Dawn Stradley-Seager, she has to choose between being a mom or being a student.

“It’s really hard for me to go to school right now, and still take care of him and find childcare for him,” said Dawn.

Her baby Titus is only six months old.

It’s been a journey for Dawn since she found out she was pregnant. As you can imagine, it’s not easy being pregnant in high school.

“I was treated like, completely horrible. To this day, people treat me bad about it, but I just kind of push that aside now because I got him to worry about,” she said.

At Lumen High School, many students will share that same situation as Dawn.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a great experience and it’s going to be wonderful,” she said.

Located upstairs in the same building as the Ridler Piano Bar and Method, the high school is currently under construction. It’s right across the street from the STA Bus Plaza.

“Which is really important because we will be having parents come in from all the surrounding areas. Hopefully one bus will get them from one house to school. The other important piece is that because we have on-site child care. They and their child will be able to come into school,” said Katie Jessop, the high school’s early learning director.

The first floor of the high school will have classrooms and a secure entryway. The second floor will be where students will be able to eat lunch with their children along with other services.

Having that on-site childcare will help Dawn a lot, because she sometimes misses school to take care of Titus. Soon, she won’t have to make that choice.

“You don’t have to worry about ‘Is my kid OK?’ and have to worry about that while you’re learning,” Dawn said.

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show only 50 percent of teen mothers get a high school diploma by 22 years old.

Dawn is hoping to be one who does, and it’ll be even more achievable thanks to Lumen High School. Along with the on-site childcare, the school is working on a partnership with CHAS Health to get other services on campus, hoping to make the school a one-stop shop for the teen parents and their kids to get what they need.

“We actually are hopefully going to impact three generations here because we’ll have the parenting student and their child. But, as we’re meeting our students, as they’re enrolling, we’re also impacting their parents. There aren’t a lot of programs that get to impact in those ways,” Jessop said.

Jessop added that they’ll be doing research with the school. They will be looking at the impact of having a school like this, with wrap-around services.

“The emphasis on social, emotional and healthy relationships and how does that impact both the parenting teen and their child over the years with their educational needs, economic needs, employment needs. Basically does Lumen do more than just offer a high school diploma? Because that’s our goal,” Jessop said.

There is currently a bill in the House to potentially help teen parents finish high school by getting free child care.

“We really need to fund early childhood education as a community, as a state. We need massive investments so that we can make sure our kids are getting the best start, said Luc Jasmin, the co-director of early learning at Lumen High. “It’s not just from an education component, it’s from just a functionality. It’s a state and city functionality perspective. If we don’t safe and consistent places for parents to bring their kids, then they are unable to work. They are unable to make sure that we are keeping our economy going as a state.”