Young mums get second chance at school life
EXAMS, schoolies plans and formal preparations all become inconsequential after learning that a baby is on the way.
A unique school program has gone from strength to strength over the past 13 years, supporting young and expectant mothers into work and further study while providing a second chance at cherished moments their peers all got to experience.
The Young Families Connect Program at Ipswich State High School will celebrate six graduates this week, who will walk the stage to collect their certificate and attend the formal alongside the 2019 senior class.
It was formerly known as the Pregnant Parenting Students Program and based at Redbank Plains State High School but was brought over by principal Simon Riley.
The program was modified three years ago so young mums could bring their babies with them to school and individualised learning plans allow mothers to tailor the program to their needs.
Bubs are left in the care of child care workers while their mums earn their Queensland Certificate of Education and undertake parenting courses.
The program has settled into its first "home" after the Department of Education granted it a building at the Brassall school this year.
"No schools in south east Queensland will take a student with their baby," program manager Corinne Harper.
"This is the only (program) with this model.
"By creating a space like this, it just stops the isolation that young parents feel. Coming off welfare is a big thing. This is the direction that we take the girls in.
"Most of the girls are always interested in further study. What they're doing here is getting their QCE but when they finish with us they have multiple certificates. Quite a lot of them will go on now and do tertiary preparation programs that will help them get into uni."
The program is at capacity, their new building is already too small and Mrs Harper said they needed more resources to take on my girls.
The Young Families Connect Program is funded by Mission Australia and partners with Queensland Health and the Brave Foundation.
"(Without the program) they would be at home on welfare doing nothing and feeling very isolated," she said.
"The numbers are increasing more and more all the time. Graduate numbers are always on the rise. We would desperately love a bus to be able to help with transport and it's something we're constantly working towards all the time.
"We hate saying no. We're constantly managing. We try and take as many as we can and keep working how we can fit them all in.
"I'd really love the (education) department to pay more attention to what we're doing. Local state and federal governments; they're all involved with what's happening with young parents."
Mrs Harper credited the leadership of Mr Riley and the culture at Ipswich State High for the program's success.
"If you don't fit the box, that's OK, we'll make the box fit," she said.
"I'm really proud of our girls that graduate. They're managing home life, children and school work."
Support always there
ASHLEY Johnson is excited to attend her high school formal, even if it is a couple of years later than she originally thought it would be.
She left Ipswich State High School in Year 11 to work in beauty therapy and fell pregnant with daughter Isla the year after.
Ashley will turn 19 in December but has reason to celebrate this week as she graduates from the Young Families Connect Program this week.
When she gets situated with her housing, she plans to return to work and study human services at university. "(The program) is such a safe space to be," she said.
"I've always got different people I can go and talk to and I'm making friends.
"I try and give advice to the young mums if they're having troubles."