Meet CIS Graduate Rehana Ward-Cooper

Rehana Ward-CooperRehana Ward-Cooper is proud to be a UNC Tarheel! Rehana is a June 2015 CIS graduate from West Mecklenburg High School, and now she is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill pursuing her dreams. But this time a year ago, having the opportunity to attend college looked near to impossible. Instead of completing college applications, Rehana was trying to prepare for motherhood – she was 6 months pregnant and very uncertain about her future, since she would soon have another little person to care for.

Fortunately for Rehana, a friend told her about Safe Journey/APP (Adolescent Parenting Program), the teen parenting programs led by Communities In Schools. Not only did the Safe Journey/APP staff help prepare Rehana to become a mother – teaching parenting and coping skills, and helping arrange childcare so she could still attend high school – but they also pushed her to achieve and not forget about her academic and career goals.

“They taught me that I was going to have to achieve even more than those who didn’t have children,” said Rehana, “and that I still needed to focus on career goals and options for the future, because I would have to provide not just for myself but for my child.”

Shannan Dean-Wilson was Rehana’s Safe Journey/APP Case Manager. Rehana credits Dean-Wilson with helping her make a plan that included daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and then ensured that Rehana acted on that plan.

Their combined efforts paid off. Learning how to be a good mother and the family support Rehana received from Safe Journey empowered her and reignited her ambition that had taken a back seat when she first learned of her pregnancy. Rehana not only kept up with her classes during her senior year at West Mecklenburg, she ended the year with a 4.38 GPA, receiving the “Highest GPA” Award from Safe Journey (out of 30 graduating Safe Journey seniors). Rehana was also selected to the National Honor Society and named a “Top Ten Senior” at West Meck. Best of all, after helping her make a plan for the care of her baby daughter, Safe Journey encouraged Rehana to apply for college. She ultimately was accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill and received scholarships to fully cover tuition and housing.

Rehana misses seeing her daughter every day, but knows she’s made the right choice to secure their future. She’s interested in computer science or perhaps pharmacology and believes getting her degree will greatly enhance her career options. What once seemed “impossible” has become possible once again.

About Safe Journey/APP

The goal of Safe Journey is to assist teen parents with the completion of their high school education, delaying additional pregnancies while simultaneously strengthening their connection with their children, families, and community. The Adolescent Parenting Program (APP) is funded by the state of North Carolina. This program encourages teen parents to complete their high school education and postpone a second pregnancy.

Safe Journey/APP currently has four case managers that each serve about 20 students who are either pregnant or already parenting, for a maximum of 80 students annually. Case managers are based at one of four CMS high schools, but also serve students at six additional CMS high schools. Once enrolled in Safe Journey/APP, participants are required to attend monthly group meetings that use the evidence-based Parents as Teachers curriculum and participate in twice monthly personal visits from the case manager that focus on child development and parent-child interaction. Babies receive health screenings such as vision, hearing, and social-emotional development, and participants’ families are connected to a wide range of community resources to support family well-being. In 2015, Safe Journey/APP had a 100% high school graduation rate – all 30 seniors in the program graduated, and 85% enrolled in college or some form of post-secondary education. Contact Program Director Judy Sanders-Bull for more information.

Editor’s Note:  Our Safe Journey/APP Team was pleased to learn on October 21, 2015 that they earned a “Blue Ribbon” designation quality rating from the national Parents as Teachers organization. Congrats, Safe Journey!