The United States has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the industrialized world where only 33% of pregnant teens graduate from high school, so what does the Emergency Manager of Detroit do? He closes a school for pregnant young women that have a 90% graduation rate.
The Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) in Detroit, Michigan was a public school for pregnant girls and young mothers with children that for the past 25 years, functioned outside of the proverbial box. If a young woman was accepted into the academy, she was guaranteed placement in college with a scholarship for support. Have you any idea how progressive that is? In addition to its academic and alternate curriculum that consists of small classes, alternative class schedules and on-site medical care; the expectant moms learned the principles of farming and self-sufficiency by tending to the school’s farm complete with horses and cows that are located smack in the middle of an urban community.
Catherine Ferguson, the school’s namesake, was a former slave who was sold at the age of 8 never to see her family again. When she was 16 her freedom was purchased for $200 by a friend. Although Catherine married and had 2 children, both died and she subsequently took care of poor and neglected children in New York City and founded the first church Sunday school. The students at the Academy continue to perpetuate Ms. Ferguson’s legacy.
The school was named a “Breakthrough High School” by the National Academy of Secondary Principals. Yet, despite all of the accolades, the students faced a school closure and organized a sit-in protest. Although many of the protestors (who were either pregnant or established mothers) were arrested, handcuffed and hauled away from their school, their efforts were not in vain. Actor Danny Glover got personally involved. Rachel Maddox of MSNBC® discussed their plight. And it paid off. The school’s principal had already removed her personal belongings when she was informed that CFA will remain open, operating as a charter school. The people have spoken once again.
For the 250 pregnant young women and their 100 children at CFA, your life is far from being over; if anything, it’s just begun.