- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - Jalyn Braxton is 17.

She has a 20-month-old daughter, MaKiah.

Her mother, who helps care for her daughter, is sick.

But Braxton said she’s never thought about quitting school.

She sees it as her duty not only to finish high school but also to attend college.

It’s for her daughter and herself, she said.

“It’s been a journey,” Braxton said. “It has. But I think it’s important to finish, to lead my baby down the right path and show other teen parents that if you set your mind to it, you can do anything.”

Braxton moved to Janesville from Tennessee about four and a half months ago and found the services at Rock River Charter School to be exactly what she needs.

“My mom is sick, so sometimes I miss a lot of days of school,” Braxton told The Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/1gYwgIu). “Since I got here, I’ve been doing so much better. There are not only less students so teachers can help you, but they put more of their heart into it than regular high school. They are so flexible.”

Braxton said she hopes to one day become a registered nurse with the help she’s gotten from Rock River Charter.

“They have a lot of different programs for teen parents,” Braxton said. “Whenever I start getting overwhelmed, I just stop and I think, ‘If you don’t go to school and succeed, there will be nothing to look forward to in the future.’ I think to myself that anything is better than nothing.”

It’s students such as Braxton who will benefit from a $103,500 InSPIRE grant recently received by the Janesville School District from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, said Lisa Peterson, principal at Rock River Charter.

“We’re excited to develop the program,” Peterson said. “Getting kids successfully to graduation and towards post secondary education is our goal.”

Peterson said the grant will help the school improve coordination of services, education and pregnancy programs for students. About 73 percent of the students live in poverty.

“Some parenting teenagers choose to come here, some do not,” Peterson said. “They can stay at their home high school, come just to Rock River Charter or dual enroll at both. It’s wonderful to have the option to provide services for both.”

The grant has allowed the district to add positions at Rock River Charter in the areas of fatherhood mentoring and grant coordination. The grant funding will last until July 2017.

“(A fatherhood position) is relatively groundbreaking within the state of Wisconsin,” Peterson said.

John Mock said he sees his new position as an important support for young fathers to be involved in the lives of their children. He will visit secondary schools in the Janesville School District to help students with social services, education and preparation for college.

“We have a lot of resources here to encourage one or both parents to have positive interaction with their young child,” Mock said. “As far as I’m concerned, providing support systems to teen fathers and focusing on their needs is my main goal.”

Lexi Monroe said she will use her grant-coordinating position as a platform to provide resources such as child care and transportation.

“I want to forge better partnerships to get them the help that they need,” Monroe said. “Time management, helping them structure their day, financial resources. We ask them their goals and where they see themselves. They all have a vision, we talk to them about ways they can get there.”

Monroe said she also would be seeking donations from the community. In the past, Rock River Charter accepted donations but didn’t seek them out.

“It will completely enhance the program,” Peterson said. “Increased resources for students will lead to increased opportunities.”

Thirty-five parenting students receive services at Rock River Charter this year, Peterson said. That’s 15.8 percent of the school’s enrollment. In 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services indicated 9.5 percent of births in Janesville were to mothers under age 20.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 46 percent of mothers 19 and younger don’t have a high school diploma.

Alexandra Kalata, 18, said she wants to graduate for her daughter.

Her mother watches her child, Alina, each day while she studies. It’s not an ideal situation, but Kalata said she needs her education.

“I want her to have the things that she needs that I didn’t have growing up,” Kalata said.


Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com

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