GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

March 28, 2008

Challenges of a high school mom

As a freshman, Amanda Ireland made a list of goals: get a job, buy a car, graduate.

It wouldn't have been an insurmountable plan for most students newly entering high school, and it might not have been for Ireland except for another list she had — one of her priorities. That list had three items on it as well: her daughter, schoolwork and herself, in that order.

"I walked into my freshman year pregnant," she said. "To this day, I don't know how I did it."

A shocking tripling in pregnancies at Gloucester High School — from three or four normally to 10 so far this school year — and reports that teen pregnancy is on the rise nationwide for the first time in more than a decade may begin to make challenges like those Ireland faced more common for high school students.

Today, Ireland is a 17-year-old senior, and her story is one of success, but she is the first to say that to achieve even the simplest of goals has required tremendous sacrifice.

Her daughter, Haley, was born during October of her freshman year, and Ireland has made constant trade-offs throughout her high school career.

"She always gets everything first," Ireland said. "She needs it more than I do."

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The increase in pregnancies at Gloucester High could begin to create pressure on the support system to which Ireland largely attributes her ability to stay in school over the past four years. Pathways Young Families Initiative provides free child care and parenting-education services to teen mothers, at first at the high school and later in an Emerson Avenue facility. The program has space for seven teen mothers from Gloucester and Peabody high schools.

This year, they are at their lowest numbers of infants born to teens ever, said Lisa Sorrento, program coordinator of the Pathways Young Families Initiative. There is one baby in that program, which begins working with mothers in their third trimester, and two teens expecting.

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