RICHMOND, Va. (CNN) – Armstrong High School student Alexus Barbee has big goals, but she feared she would have to put them on hold when she got pregnant at 16.
“I thought that I’m not going to be able to go to school every day,” Barbee said. “Who’s gonna be there to watch my child?” she asked. “Um, like am I gonna be able to finish?” she added. “I had a lot going through my mind.”
Now she brings her nine-month-old daughter to school because of the daycare program Armstrong High School has for students and their children. Students like Barbee are able to attend parenting classes, which includes spending time at the daycare. The school’s program is funded with local and federal dollars.
School administrators believe this program will help raise graduation rates. Only 38 percent of teen girls who have a child before the age of 18 get a high school diploma.
Principal April Hawkins-Jones says their program is a win-win for teens like Barbee.
“Just to think back… I’ve known Alexus for four years, and this is such a different, mature type of student who really wants to get her high school diploma,” Hawkins-Jones said. “The child care lab affords her that opportunity.”
Programs like these are available in states across the country.
Studies show that providing teen mothers with access to child care at school not only increases their likelihood of graduating, but it also lowers the chance they will have another child while in school.
However, some critics say these programs are not a good use of taxpayer dollars.
“It’s something that we should be looking to charitable organizations, philanthropists, lots of people who are interested in these things, to fund it,” one critic said.
On the contrary, the director of federal grants for Richmond city schools says the program at Armstrong is invaluable.
“The data for parents who don’t graduate from high school is gonna be a ripple negative impact on their children’s education.”