There are moments in life when you want to stand up and cheer. Reading about Charletta Dillard, MD was one of those moments. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the eleventh hour reprieve of the Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) for pregnant teens that was scheduled to close based on budget cuts in Detroit, Michigan. Public funding for schools for pregnant teens has taken a nose dive for years to the detriment of our nation’s future. Dillard’s story is a prime example of why bureaucrats need to hit the pause button before passing judgment on pregnant teens and treating them like stereotypes.
In an interview with Jet Magazine, Dillard told reporter Kenya N. Byrd that she had become pregnant as a 14-year-old ninth grader. In her own words she was “afraid, lost and jobless with zero parenting skills.” Dillard’s mom was also a single parent who encouraged her to remain in school and her father was serving a life sentence in prison. Like many girls, Dillard was kicked out of her high school when she was approximately 28 weeks because she was constantly fighting. Her boyfriend encouraged her to apply to CFA and deferred his own dreams of entering the military in order to support Dillard. The amenities provided by CFA such as onsite nursery care, parenting classes and assistance in applying to college helped tremendously. Dillard became her class valedictorian and graduated a year ahead of schedule. She worked at a fast food restaurant for approximately 18 months and then became a medical assistant. Nursing school followed and then Wayne State University School of Medicine where Dillard became a physician and is presently in a residency program. Her 22-year-old son is a homeowner and college student.
Lalita Booth and Liz Murray’s stories are equally compelling. Booth, by her own admission on CBS News was a rebellious teen who was sexually abused by a family acquaintance. By the time she was 18, she was married, had a baby and became homeless, living in her car. She gave her in-laws temporary custody of her son while she navigated her way through the educational system in order to change the trajectory of her future. Ditto Liz Murray who was also a homeless child of drug addicted parents. Both Booth and Murray were ultimately accepted into Harvard University. Murray’s story was chronicled into a Lifetime Channel Movie called From Homeless to Harvard and Booth founded the Lighthouse for Dreams, a nonprofit organization that teaches teen financial literacy.
Perhaps Dr. Charletta Dillard says it best: “So when you see a pregnant teen or a young girl pushing a stroller, don’t be quick to assume she has no future because she is me.”
MTV, please – take notes.