“People see statistics about truancy, but they don’t usually think about the human side. At West40, we’ve seen that no student just decides to stop attending school. There’s always a reason and there’s always a story.
For some students, the problem is poverty. Their family needs them to work to help the family stay afloat. For others, the problem is a lack of parental support. Students are struggling with the normal challenges of being a teenager, but simply do not have the support system they need to make it through. We have a process for intervening and advocating for these students. First we meet with school personnel to gather information and send a letter to the students’ home. We follow-up by calling and/or texting parents, meeting with the student inside or outside of school, and conducting home visits with the student and their family. We explain that we at West40 come from a place of concern, not consequence. We attempt to discover the barriers preventing school attendance and talk through solutions. We make appropriate community referrals and continue to follow-up with the student and their parent(s).
West40 Truancy has seen a correlation between truancy and teen pregnancy. When a teen discovers she is pregnant, she may confide in a friend or trusted adult at school. Because West40 works closely with counselors and administrators, when a teen mom is identified, she learns about the West40 Teen Parent Counselor and services. If she’s interested, we step in and assist in this new life process!
We talk her through everything, from the basics of what’s going to happen to her body, to how other aspects of her life are going to change. We talk about how her family might take the news; in many cases, her mother may have been pregnant at a young age as well and may be very supportive. The student doesn’t know what to expect because the idea of being pregnant in high school likely never occurred to them, so it’s helpful that we’re there to counsel them through it. And since I’ve had two children, I can tell her from a firsthand perspective what it’s like to be pregnant and what it’s like to be a mother.
From the outset, we make it clear to the student that being pregnant and having a child don’t have to prevent her from finishing high school and becoming the person she wants to be. It’s going to be a challenge, for sure, but we start working with teachers and administrators right away to develop a plan for how the student can stay on track with their education. We’re there to counsel the fathers, as well, and we can make a plan for them to finish school too.
By being there when no one else is, we can help students face some of their biggest challenges.