SALEMBURG — With a small group of students at Lakewood High School, Extension Agent Lethia Lee and Career Adviser Summerlyn Faircloth talked about famous people who overcame the challenges of teenage parenthood.
One of them included Maya Angelou, who went on to becoming a world-famous poet. The adult educators want those young parents to be successful in their future endeavors too. The Sampson County Cooperative Extension is continuing to help teenage parents through the “Table for Two” program, which teaches how to deal with pregnancy and being a parent. Participants receive resources, including those teaching proper nutrition for babies. Also, self-esteem is taught during the class.
Along with other teens involved, Brittany Bennett, a 17-year-old junior, enjoyed listening to the experiences of participants and cooking tips for her child. The majority of people in the program like Bennett are mothers, but fathers such as Allen Goodrich, an 18-year-old senior, benefit as well.
“It kind of taught me more things that would be more healthier (when my child) eats, how to cook it and how to prepare,” Goodrich said.
Junior Michelle Ramirez, 17, said it was also helpful when it came to opening up about being a teen parent.
“The program has been very helpful to me and it helped me open up more,” Ramirez said. “It helped me collaborate with other students, teen moms and dads that also had babies.”
Lakewood is one of few schools in Sampson County using the Table for Two resource for students. Sessions were previously held at Lakewood High School. Its curriculum is under the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which is a federally-funded program through Cooperative Extension. At the conclusion of the program, awards and 12-hour certificates from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, were awarded to the students in Table for Two.
“After being here at Lakewood, I feel that it’s a program that’s really needed within the school system,” Lee said. “They have food and nutrition and parenting classes, but we go a little bit deeper and talk about the baby.”
Also, Lee said it gives the students confidence about being in a school environment and not being secluded.
“They know they’re different and not the same as other students,” Lee said about parenthood. “They have children, so they have to think of ways to do things that the other children don’t.”
Guidance Counselor Cynthia Wood was instrumental in bringing the program to the school and working with Lee. Faircloth said Lakewood was very excited about working with the Cooperative Extension.
“I think it’s very beneficial for them,” Faircloth said. “They’re young and they’re still children themselves.”
She added that one of the advantages of Table for Two is the instruction, motivation for success and assistance.
“So many children that become young parents, it consumes them to point where they quit school,” Faircloth said. “I want to commend the kids that are still at school and knowing that it’s so important for their children.”
Less than a dozen students at Lakewood High School are pregnant or teen parents. Faircloth said the amount may be a little more if male student numbers are included. Seven students finished the program.
“The kids who stay in school really do try and I’m really proud of them,” Faircloth said.
Despite the challenges, Ramirez stressed that it’s possible to be successful.
“You can get really far in life with a baby because he’ll be your number one and the reason you haven’t given up on everything,” Ramirez said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.