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MID-CITY : L.A. High's Class for Young Mothers

June 13, 1993|JAKE DOHERTY

When teen-ager Mayra Rivera is late for school, it's usually because she's had trouble getting her 3-year-old son, Jaketa, dressed, fed and off to day care.

Classmates Joanne Kuilan, 18, and Danielle Proctor, 17, understand: They go through the same routine with their 3-year-olds.

The three Los Angeles High School seniors are in a class for young mothers and mothers-to-be that offers support so they can finish school. The young women plan to graduate from the 2,800-student school June 29; Proctor will be one of the speakers.

"I have friends who don't have kids and they don't understand what it's like," said Proctor, who is rearing her daughter by herself.

The after-school class is funded by a $17,000 grant from the state Department of Education. The program, organized by assistant principal Marcia Haskin, is one of 20 similar classes at high schools in the Los Angeles Unified District.

At L.A. High, Haskin signed up 28 young women for the weekly hourlong class; about 10 attend regularly. The students go on field trips and receive day care for their children, bus tokens, and information on careers and self-esteem.

Rivera, 17, said she will miss the day care when she graduates. "Schools should have day care for all mothers," she said, adding that the lack of such care is "the main reason why girls (with children) drop out of school."

Haskin is quick to point out that "this class is not about how to be a parent."

"This is for the girls," Haskin said. The program includes tips on job interviews, and gets them thinking about their own futures--as well as their children's.

"I used to be shy but now I want to talk to all kinds of people because I want to better myself and my life for him," said Rivera, referring to Jaketa. She wants to attend a community college and become a police officer.

The young women share advice, hold each other's babies and talk of their frustrations with boyfriends, not being able to go out when they want, and juggling school, jobs and parental responsibilities.

Although some regretted getting pregnant, none seriously considered adoption or abortion, Haskin said, adding that the students wanted a baby's unconditional love. In some cases, motherhood has steered them away from gangs.

Rivera said she knew nothing of birth control when she was 14 and did not listen to the advice of adults. Now, she said, she lectures her friends: "Don't have a baby now. You think it's easy but it's not."

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