Teen parenting program keeps new moms on track Gwen Bittner / CITRUS CHRONICLE

When 18-year-old Crystal River High School student Emily Brest found out she was pregnant, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to finish high school.

With the help and guidance of teen parenting teacher Kathy Eckstein, Emily stayed in school and is now preparing to graduate and attend the College of Central Florida next year.

“At first I was kind of iffy,” Emily said. “I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to continue with school, but being in the program made me want to stay in school. I was able to be here with my baby and it gave me comfort that he was here with me.”

“She had been working a lot of hours and had school,” Eckstein said. “It just got overwhelming I think to do both. She was smart enough to know her high school education is important. She put in her two-week notice at her job so she could focus on school and graduating.”

Emily entered the teen parenting program in the middle of her junior year, taking Eckstein’s class in place of an elective. She immediately began practicing the basics of being a mother.

“I started out just changing diapers; learning what I was supposed to do as a mom,” Emily said.

“They are learning all those skills to take care of a newborn baby before their baby gets here,” Eckstein said. “We have them feed the babies, make the bottles or make their food, and we have them get down on the floor and they engage in play with the children. When they’re here at school they spend 90 minutes bonding with that baby.”

The program has helped Emily gain the formative knowledge of motherhood while remaining engaged in education.

“She’s a lot more confident in herself and in her ability to take care of her child,” Eckstein said. “She’s more determined to finish school.”

Now that her son Jackson is nearing six months of age, Emily spends her first block feeding him breakfast and playing. She devotes the remainder of her school day to classes while Eckstein and aides care for Jackson.

Like Jackson, Emily is quickly approaching an important milestone נgraduation. She doesn’t intend to stop her education there, either.

“I’m planning on going to college at CF. I’m going to become and RN,” Emily said. “When I become an RN I want to transfer to the University of St. Augustine and go into physical therapy classes.”


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