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Easing the mother load: Salem High program helps teen moms stay in school
By Anna Scott
Staff writer


SALEM — Just after the start of his freshman year, Arnold Vazquez wandered down to the teen parent center in Salem High School.

When the rows of lockers gave way to a lineup of baby strollers, he peered in the doorway at the toys, the colorful mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and the baby cereal and backpacks piled on the kitchen table.

All of it — including a woman named Sue Belski standing among a cluster of cribs — looked familiar.

"Do you guys remember me?" Arnold asked.

Belski, who has cared for teenagers' babies for 16 years while their moms attend class, looked at him for a moment and asked his name.

"When he said Arnold and smiled, I immediately recognized the smile," Belski said.

Arnold is one of the first group of children to grow up in the teen parent program and return to Salem High, this time as a student. When he was born, Salem High was one of only two schools in the state to have an in-house program for teen mothers.

His mother, Yenitza Vazquez, was just 14 when she became pregnant. She transferred from the Lawrence schools to Salem High after Arnold was born so she could participate in the teen parent program.

"I was my mom's age when she had me," said Arnold, standing with her in their old stomping ground last week. "It's crazy. It's something else."

Before and After

That the program has reached the second generation of students points to its success, said Stephen Schaffer, executive director of the Children's Friend and Family Services, the charity that runs the program.

And while it's something supporters may take for granted now, it was controversial in 1987.

"Kids were suspicious and wary at first," said Schaffer. "It was pretty much unheard of. Kids didn't know what to make of it. Faculty didn't know what to make of it. The School Committee had concerns about it. The thought at the time by some was that such a program would make teen parenting look fun."

Now the center is just another stop on the freshman orientation tour.

This year, there are five teens in the program, plus two who are pregnant. When the honor roll was published Friday, three of the five were on it, and one had earned high honors.

Before starting the program, school officials studied teen pregnancy at the school for five years. During that time, 50 students dropped out following pregnancy or the birth of a child.

Funds from Children's Friend and the state Department of Social Services founded the program and continue to support it. The cost is $10,000 per year per teen, Schaffer said. The young moms participate in parenting classes, receive counseling and act as a support group for one another.

Of the 147 students who have participated in the program, 83 have graduated from Salem High. But that's not to say the remaining 40 percent of participants have dropped out — Belski said many of the girls transfer to other cities, or move into permanent teen mom homes outside of Salem. Others receive their GEDs or place children in foster care.

She notes that more than half of the 83 girls who earned their diplomas have gone on to higher education.

One of them was Arnold's mother.

Yenitza

Yenitza moved from Puerto Rico to the United States with her mother, a Pentecostal minister and teacher, when she was 12. After she became pregnant at age 14, her mother insisted she marry the father of her child. The two were married in a small ceremony at Lawrence City Hall.

She would sign divorce papers during her freshman year at Endicott College, but not before becoming pregnant a second time while she was a student at Salem High. Even after the birth of her daughter, she was a fixture on the honor roll and completed school in four years.

"My mother always told me when I was growing up I had to go to college and get a good education and a good job," she said. "I always knew I was going to do that."

After graduating from high school, she enrolled in the single-parent program at Endicott College and earned an associate's degree in science. Between caring for her toddlers and doing homework, there was little time to study for exams. She said she trained herself to retain whatever information she heard in class. Other students would babysit when she needed to go to the computer lab to write a paper.

Now she works as a medical assistant in a doctor's office near Salem Hospital. Meanwhile, she's also working toward her nursing degree at North Shore Community College. The degree is taking longer than she'd like, she said, because she can take classes only on weekends.

"I tell myself, if you start, you'll finish," she said.

Looking back, she wonders how she managed raising children as a young teen. Salem High's program set her up to achieve her goals, but something inside herself pushed her to accomplish them.

"My children, you just look at them and you want to keep going," she said.

At not even 30 years old, she has a lot of experience to share. Two years ago she began working as a Spanish-speaking parenting counselor for United Way. She plans to begin giving talks about her experiences at Salem's teen parent center.

Belski says Yenitza, or "Jenny" as she's sometimes called, should be a terrific contact for the young mothers. She hardly speaks a sentence without including a kind word or vibrant laugh. When she and Arnold are together, they joke like friends.

"There's this perception out there that young mothers are bad mothers," Belski said. "They're like any other single mom, or any other person who has a child and didn't have one before. And sometimes they have to do more work."
 

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The problem is it's all these Salem girls going to hang out in Lynn with their ghetto ass boyfriends because they are rebelling against daddy and they get knocked up. I'm glad to see these girls that are in the program are on the honor roll but there are other schools in this state that the teachers have to buy supplies for their classrooms out of their own pocket. If it was up to me I'd give the girls a hanger and a jar and tell them to keep their friggin legs closed. Teenage girls nowadays are tramps. It's ridiculous when I go to the mall with my GF and we see these groups of like 12-15 year old girls walking along with their thongs hanging out and skirts that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. Parents need to tighten their grip on their children and we won't need Child care centers in the schools.

Scott
 

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amen SAPD. Ya know I have about 11 years until my girls are 13and become a problem i can't imagne what it will be like then. I hope this trend that u were talking about will start changing direction. :cry:
 

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What's up with all of you rankin on the North Shore... Watch ya self.. This is my stomping ground...Someones' bound to get shanked..LOL j/k
:twisted:

Galyans? They sell sluts now? Is that inbetween the sneakers and men's athletic clothing??
 

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Discussion Starter #8
What's up with all of you rankin on the North Shore... Watch ya self.. This is my stomping ground...Someones' bound to get shanked..LOL j/k
Im a lifer in Danvers and as the official spokesman of Danvers women, I can safely tell you this town is rife with rich dadddys girl sluts...................Danvers High turns them out faster than Ford and his Model T factory. :shock: :D

Want a good woman, pick up a thin Italian catholic girl from Everett, Malden or Revere. Years of strict rules and repressed desires, they know there role and cant wait to get a man. :wink:
 

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Re: re: This weeks waste of tax dollars.

copchika911 said:
What's up with all of you rankin on the North Shore... Watch ya self.. This is my stomping ground...Someones' bound to get shanked..LOL j/k
:twisted:

Galyans? They sell sluts now? Is that inbetween the sneakers and men's athletic clothing??
I have every right to rank on the North Shore It's my stomping grounds also.

Scott :santa:
 

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Re: re: This weeks waste of tax dollars.

stm4710 said:
What's up with all of you rankin on the North Shore... Watch ya self.. This is my stomping ground...Someones' bound to get shanked..LOL j/k
Im a lifer in Danvers and as the official spokesman of Danvers women, I can safely tell you this town is rife with rich dadddys girl sluts...................Danvers High turns them out faster than Ford and his Model T factory. :shock: :D

Want a good woman, pick up a thin Italian catholic girl from Everett, Malden or Revere. Years of strict rules and repressed desires, they know there role and cant wait to get a man. :wink:
Ah ha ha ha The girls from those towns are the worst. All they are is a bunch of skanks go to the Square One mall any day of the week.

Scott :santa:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Ehhh not the ones I have been with, but I know the type......that dress in the puffy jackets and thier hair never seems to dry and pulled back tight.........or have insanely huge bangs and go out with guys named Paco just out of the candy ass farm in Lawrence. :roll:

Stick to the chruch girls, they are close to LBFM's and can cook .
 

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Hey I live in Danvers, didn't grow up here though (Thank God), only been on the North Shore for 4 years...Swampscott, Peabody and now Danvers...but I can honestly say both the men and women here are about the same.. the majority of them suck at life. I HATE TOWNIES... AND Sylvan St Grille! Errr Is everyone's father a tradesman...Does anyone have any original career ideas?!!?

The only bonus in Danvers is all the lifted F-350's ... :lol: But I'd have to say I'm kinda all set with Evertte and Malden and Revere. Good Luck with that..LOL

I stick to my boys in Blue.... :naughty:
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I HATE TOWNIES... AND Sylvan St Grille!
I have never stepped foot in that place, no plans to either. My round of restuarants are Rocos,Brothers and the worlds most inconveintly placed Buger King.
I live in the port...........and hate all the new "Danvers" people that live up in the prep area or off Dayton st. And better yet, all these condo dwellers. :x
Thie arer 3 classes of Danvers people. The towies, the people thats are life long residents and laugh at the townies and hate Wayne and the wankstas that move here. :p

Errr Is everyone's father a tradesman...
My fathers an electrician and "Bostons best" oil burner tech according to the Globe. :wink:
Kinda nice to have him around when the furnace goes down. Also does a pant load of electrical work for DPD officers homes, so they all know him and me which is nice. :innocent:

Although as time goes on I am becomeing more and more of a Beverly "good ole boy" from being immersed in it so much working for the city.
 

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You only listed two STM.. what's the third?

Let's see I live in a house with roommates, I work ALL THE TIME, I hardly hang out in Danvers and I'm not a big fan of the residents. l I live off Centre..I'm curious as to what that makes me??? :shifty:
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Wanksta.........but if you support DPD patrolman in thier contract dispute. I can bump you up to resident that hates Wayne and laughs at townies. :wink: 8)
 

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I support all my boys in blue as stated before..I do the job why wouldn't I support it??. But as for the Wanksta comment .... remember my first post about random shankings.?.

So are you gonna Indentify yourself.......or continue to waste my time?
 
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