Kenadie Mullen and Corbin Mead share two top priorities. The first is their son, Rowan. The second is graduating with a high school diploma.
A couple of years ago, neither Kenadie nor Corbin thought high school graduation was in their future. They both dropped out of school to work supporting a newborn. But Lumen High School, a charter public school based in Spokane designed for teen parents, made high school and graduation an achievable reality for the parents of Rowan, age 2. Last month, the two celebrated their high school graduation together, with Rowan by their side.
A Fresh Start
For Kenadie and Corbin, Lumen offered a chance for them to succeed as scholars and parents.
For Kenadie, her first impressions of the school revolved around the social aspects. Known as a shy kid, at Lumen, Kenadie was able to connect with other new parents and build lasting friendships with fellow students who were at the same, unique place in life.
“At Lumen, I discovered that I have more options to socialize – I didn’t have a lot of friends, but now I do,” she said. “There were only twenty kids in the class, which was different from the big school I came from. I was able to connect with people quickly.”
Corbin echoed Kenadie’s feelings about connecting with new parents, but what put him at ease was being online. With COVID-19 closing physical buildings for most students, Corbin found that being online – combined with the small community feel – was like nothing he had experienced before.
“I usually get new school butterflies, but this time was different,” he said. “It was less stressful than anytime I had been in school before.”
Not only did Kenadie and Corbin start a new school. So, too, did Rowan. Rowan began attending GLOW, the early childhood development program at Lumen. Here he was able to make friends, learn independence skills, and gain critical social and emotional building blocks. Even while the school building was mostly closed, childcare and preschool spaces were open one day a week throughout the school year.
Building a Plan for Success During COVID
Starting a new school amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be stressful for most people. For Kenadie and Corbin, it nearly derailed their path to graduation. Juggling parenting, work, home management, and a new family dog, and school felt like too much for them.
That’s when Lumen stepped in and helped craft a plan for their success. Lumen leaders and teachers noticed that they were struggling. So, they actively engaged in a meeting where Kenadie, Corbin, and their advisors mapped out how both could succeed with all of their responsibilities.
Part of this process was priority setting. From there, the choices for how Kenadie and Corbin managed their time became clear – focus on Rowan and then school and take fewer shifts at work. Flexibility and tenacity are two school values that Kenadie and Corbin employed to see this plan through.
“I’ve become more flexible as I discovered how to work, study, and be a parent,” said Corbin. “Without Lumen’s flexibility, I don’t think I would have graduated High School. They made it doable, especially with virtual classes. The teachers work with you 100% so if you missed out on something they will work with you on your time to catch you up.”
“Throughout the school year I had to keep reminding myself to keep going, even when I sometimes failed. I learned to practice tenacity,” added Kenadie. “As an adult, you have to make it work. With Lumen’s support and cutting back on work, we were able to make it.”
With the combination of their hard work and efforts, and the supportive flexibility of the school, Kenadie and Corbin have been able to achieve their goals and now have new skills they can lean on to move forward with confidence.
Multigenerational Learning at Lumen
Over the school year, Lumen’s teaching model spoke to both Kenadie and Corbin in different ways. While Kenadie found that social connections were important, Corbin enjoyed the hands-on learning style.
They both appreciated how their teachers made classwork feel interesting, relevant, and fun. Kenadie proudly talks about how she’s succeeding in Math – a subject she long struggled with. She was also able to work on projects that interested her, like developing a food critique website for one of her classes. She also built connections with her teachers around shared interests.
For Corbin, learning concepts in non-traditional ways helped him gain mastery of tough subjects. “Instead of textbook-based reading and writing – it was more hands on,” he said. “We did projects together, and they were fun and engaging and got me to want to learn. That’s what taught me more.”
At Lumen, they also cultivated social interaction for the scholars and their children, which helped build strong bonds for Kenadie and Corbin.
Kenadie found that she was easily able to make friends, especially during a part of the day called “Nest.” During Nest, “I got to know the other students better,” says Kenadie. “I would use our Facebook page to coordinate play dates for Rowan and get us out of the house.”
Corbin added, “Since Lumen didn’t have many students, all of Kenadie’s friends became my friends. Everyone is friendly and we always had something to talk about with all the kids around.”
Co-parenting as scholars
Being in school together enabled Corbin and Kenadie to lean on each other for support throughout the school year. Also, unlike many young people doing virtual learning in a pandemic, the flexibility of online learning worked out really well for the duo as they tried to manage a hectic home and work schedule.
“Being able to have school online helped keep things super organized, it made work so much easier,” said Corbin.
“It’s easy with Rowan because he’s comfortable at home. Lumen makes it easy to go to school – as long as you show up,” added Kenadie.
The pair noted that sometimes Rowan would need attention during class. Instead of losing out on learning to care for their child, they worked out a solution. “Rowan is usually pretty independent, but there are some days where he’s really needing attention,” explained Corbin. “What’s great is that we are in the same classes so if Rowan needs one of us, we can fill each other in on what we missed from class.”
This co-learning and co-parenting structure helped both build healthy bonds with their child without missing important lessons. Through GLOW, Kenadie, Corbin and Rowan have all gained important life skills.
“I’ve learned about being patient and taking deep breaths,” said Corbin.
“With Rowan, it’s a teamwork thing. It takes a lot of patience but together I think we can accomplish it,” added Kenadie.
In preschool, Rowan has also grown and developed with his academic and social-emotional skills. “He’s more fluent with his numbers and colors and words,” remarked Kenadie. “He’s able to speak and tell us if he’s hungry, if he needs to go to the bathroom. He’s able to give us the signs he needs.”
Corbin adds, “He loves socialization as much as I do. When he went to Lumen it was like heaven for him. He doesn’t like to share his toys though, but at GLOW, they are able to solve those issues and he’s learning to understand his emotions more.”
A Bright Future
“It’s worth it in the long run. I feel so accomplished,” Corbin exclaims proudly. “I was a drop-out, but now that I have this diploma, there are so many opportunities for me and it’s exciting!”
Both are considering a gap year followed by college or an apprentice program. Whatever they plan, they are happy to have the success of a high school diploma. It’s a milestone they hope Rowan will also achieve. They want him to be able to access whatever future he wants.
As founding students at Lumen, they also want the school to continue the programs that helped them succeed. “I hope they continue with their core values,” said Kenadie. “That was my motivation every day. If they can continue with those values, other students can hang on and keep going too.”
“I would love for them to have end of day park play,” said Corbin. “That was the one thing I looked forward to the most. It helped build friendships and kept us all motivated.”
Learn more about Lumen High School here.