Completing high school is a major achievement for any teenager, but for those who have already become mothers, it can sometimes seem an insurmountable obstacle.
That’s why teen mothers Zalie, TeHana and Mariah are celebrating completing Year 12 this week, along with 11 other students who are graduating from a Christian school in Brisbane dedicated to supporting students to overcome significant barriers to education.
Falling pregnant as teenagers threatened to derail their education but the trio had a second chance at schooling at Carinity Education Southside. Operated by Carinity, an outreach of Queensland Baptists, the all-girls school allows young mums to continue their education while their children are cared for at an on-site early learning centre for babies and toddlers.
Zalie, 19, enrolled at the special assistance school at Sunnybank after giving birth to her son, now aged two-and-a-half.
“I had trouble trying to get work and I thought that the only real opportunity that I had was to try and get back into school, but no schools could cater to me and my son except for Carinity,” Zalie said.
“Their support team were able to help me reach my potential and guide me in the right direction. Nobody here judges me for being a mum but at other schools, they would have. I can still go about my day being a mum, a student and an individual.”
After completing a Certificate IV in Business with the support of Carinity Education Southside, Zalie plans to volunteer at the school next year to “help out the community the same way that they helped me”.
Mother to a 13-month-old, TeHana says the support of Carinity Education Southside, its teachers and youth workers “has been like nothing else”.
“The daycare picks us up and takes us home so it’s easy to get to and from school and the learning support is great too. I always knew I was going to finish school but without Carinity it would have been a lot harder, and I would have struggled more,” TeHana said.
Now the 17-year-old aspires to work as a doula, assisting women during childbirth and “helping younger mums to have positive birth experiences”.
Fellow graduating student Mariah took a break from school to give birth to twins late last year. When the 19-year-old returned to school, the transition was made easier by the support she received.
“When I returned to school from pregnancy, the school welcomed me back with open arms and were really supportive. They told me if anyone could do this, I could, which meant a lot to me,” Mariah said.
“The school is like my family and my biggest support network, it’s really amazing. I honestly did not expect to be here and about to graduate from school. It’s massive for me. It’s good to finally get to the finish line.”