My personal Facebook feed has been flooded with pictures of 2018 graduates, both high school and college students. For so many, graduation means senior pictures, invitations, parties, fancy cakes, and gifts. It is an exciting time in the lives of young people and their families; one chapter of their lives is closing and another is beginning. Far removed from my Facebook feed, however, are the 25 graduating students who have been involved in programs at the Teen Action and Support Center where I am lucky enough to work as the Director of Therapeutic Services.
I am pretty sure this has been a record year for graduates at TASC. We had 11 teen moms in our First Steps program graduate in 2018! We know that pregnant and parenting teenagers are at high risk for dropping out of high school before finishing. Only about 40% of this population nationwide graduates; but 98% of our teen parents did! Bonus shout out- we have 3 previous graduates who just finished their freshman year in a post-secondary setting. To the 11 moms and dads who are 2018 graduates, we are so proud of each of you.
We also had 9 students who were part of our Teen Thrive program graduate this year. This program assists teens who have housing instability. It may seem hard to believe that teenagers find themselves homeless or on the very edge of homelessness in our community. These students may have been told to leave their current living situation or be “couch surfing” in order to be in a safe situation. We know that homeless students are at risk for a number of challenging experiences, and that dropping out of school is often a result of these. To each of you, we say, well done and thank you for inspiring hope in others.
A few weeks ago a student showed up in my office with a hug and a graduation announcement. Inside was her senior picture which to anyone would look like a normal senior photo. But this beautiful young lady has overcome trauma that no one should ever have to endure. She had an amazingly selfless adult step up into her life some time back who took her in and brought her to TASC for counseling services. She and four other seniors have been part of our Restore program this year. And they are graduating this year despite their challenges with depression, anxiety, and trauma that would (and has) kept so many others from completing school.
We are blessed by these 25 students who have had every reason to not finish. We can’t tell you their names, or show you their pictures because of confidentiality, but these beautiful, wonder-ful, inspiring young people are our class of 2018! Congratulation to each of you and the people who have been “in this together” with them, and with us, as we have served them.