ahaira Cortez plays with Damien at the local library, where the students are encouraged to read to their children to promote literacy.
Leslie Castro, an Association House High School alumna, and her two kids play in the Family Literacy Room.
What are wraparound supports for young parents?
For young parents like Yahaira Cortez, 17, the greatest barrier to earning her diploma was the prospect of attending classes without childcare for her son Damien. Weeks after giving birth, Yahaira was able to return to school with Damien, who enrolled in the Association House High School’s childcare program.
“I decided to come here because I had a kid at a really young age. But having a kid was no excuse. I still came to school, and I graduated a whole year earlier,” said Yahaira, who received her diploma last month. “It’s really nice. You get to see your kid throughout the day. You come down to change their diaper, you go to lunch with them, you feed them…You’re very involved with your kids even though you’re in school.”
Housed on the first floor of the 30-year-old school, the Family Literacy Program (FLP), the school’s childcare service funded in part by the United Way of Metro Chicago, provides flexibility for the young parents. Though a supervisor and volunteers are always on staff, in between and during classes, the students are expected to stop in to care for their child. They’re also encouraged to read to their children and attend literacy programs at the local library.
“At the very core of what the program is, we’re trying to get the parents to attend just one day of school. If we can get them to do that and then keep going every little step, then I think that’s huge for a lot of them,” said Sarah Schupbach, supervisor of the FLP.
In addition, students’ class schedules include parent workshops that teach them a range of life skills that benefit both them and their kids. Workshops include lessons on pregnancy and postpartum care, sexual health, goalsetting, child nutrition, building healthy relationships and how to find a job and childcare after graduation.
“We’re building relationships and showing them that there is a safe place that you can bring your child, where your child is loved and your child is learning, and where you are also learning and you’re accepted as a parent,” Sarah said.
Parent Success = Child Success
While stable childcare and regularly attending school are top priorities for the parents, the Family Literacy Program also addresses a generational issue many children of young parents face – educational delays. To address literacy and learning deficiencies, Sarah assesses their development and creates a curriculum tailored to the children’s individual needs.
eslie Castro, another Association House High School alumna and young mom, brought her two kids to the FLP when she enrolled at the high school. At her last school, she received no class credit after three years, and one of her children suffered abuse at the home daycare he attended, she said.
Upon enrolling in the childcare program, her son was “behind on his speaking,” but he and his sister have progressed greatly since they arrived, Leslie said proudly.
“It was really hard for me, but when I came here to Association House it was really nice. It was a big thing now that I could spend time with my kids and be in school,” she added.
Reflecting on her time at the high school, Leslie said she especially appreciated the teachers’ involvement in her and her kids’ lives and the friendships she built with other moms.
“The teachers are awesome – they help you with everything. They really care about you, not just here in school but outside of school,” Leslie said. “In another school or maybe at your house, you don’t get that support.”
Most importantly, Leslie values the opportunities that a high school diploma will provide for her and her children, including her new administrative job at the high school.
“I thought I couldn’t make it and this year, when they gave me my diploma, it really meant something to me,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself. It was really worth it.”