It’s no easy feat to graduate high school while being a teen parent, especially during a pandemic. But on June 3, nine teenage parents received their high school diplomas, defying the odds.
Micaela Yagle and Corey Shannon, both parents to eight month old Rivyn, are two of those graduates who when first learned they were pregnant, weren’t aware of all their options.
Yagle was 18 years-old when she says her school in Traverse City found out she was expecting, claiming they would not allow her to graduate.
“I thought I was going to go to NMC [Northwestern Michigan College] for surgical technology,” says Yagle. “I applied for everything, and then I was told that I wasn’t going to be able to graduate. So then I was really sad.”
It was through Yagle’s school librarian she found , a non-profit based out of Traverse City High School, that aims to help young students, having their first child, finish school.
“Think about where they’ve come from during the pandemic, which in and of itself has been a challenge, being in school during the pandemic,” says Marjie Rich, Generations Ahead Executive Director. “But on top of that, these are young parents who have babies, and they need to be able to support their babies themselves. Often they are holding down jobs and they’re attending school.”
Yagle says while she was driving from her mother’s home in Frankfort to attend class in Traverse City, Generations Ahead was helping pay for her gas in addition to baby items.
They also offering counseling to clients and any other support the young families may need.
“It’s just like a safe place,” says Yagle. “We go in there and it’s like open arms.”
Generations Ahead helps about 50 families each year. Once the students graduate they can still receive help up to age 22.
“We have some that have launched their careers, some that are in job training programs. So completing high school is not the end of their journey with us. It’s really just a spot along that long journey that we continue to walk with them a lot,” says Rich.
Shannon says now that he has his diploma he’d like to study culinary arts or psychology. Yagle has her heart set on surgical technology, something she’s always wanted to do since enrolling in Allied Health’s career tech program.
Rich says for many of their clients at Generations Ahead, having a child motivates them to rise to the occasion and be the best they can be.
Shannon and Yagle are recently engaged, but say their main focus is caring for their son and saving money for a new home.
“It’s definitely not the end of the world to have a child it’s something that you can love and care for, and they’re going to be a part of your life forever,” says Yagle.