Student moms — Young Parent Services accommodates 20 Grade 8 to 12 students

Cheryl Rossi, Vancouver Courier

If she hadn’t become pregnant as a high school dropout at age 16, Charlaine Ang doubts she would have graduated last Friday.

“I’ve done my part of partying and now I realize that’s not the kind of life I want for myself,” says the slender 19-year-old with long, straight hair. … With the help of self-paced courses offered through the Vancouver School Board’s South Hill Education Centre’s youth program and the Tupper Young Parent Services alternative program, Ang is more than graduating. She won a scholarship and a bursary that will help pay for her post-secondary studies at Capilano University next year.

Ang stopped partying when she chose to keep her child, and she’s survived a demanding schedule for the last two years. She attends the Tupper program-which trains teen moms how to prepare nutritious meals, and provides fitness sessions and childcare-by day and works retail at Metrotown until 9: 30 p.m. three nights a week. Ang often rushes home to cook for herself, her three-year-old son Rainier and her father, who sometimes works double shifts until 11 p.m. as a courier. She drops Rainier off at his father’s family’s home, and then heads to Metrotown. Ang also works Saturdays and Sundays.

Her once consuming social life now seems unimportant…

With its rainbow-hued play areas, blooming hanging baskets and sprouting garden, the YWCA Emma’s Early Learning and Care Centre is a much cheerier sight than the adjacent portable at East 23rd Avenue and Carolina Street where Tupper Young Parent Services runs. The portable’s interior, however, is bright and comfortable….

Ang knew about Tupper Young Parent Services but felt reluctant to have strangers care for her son. Family cared for offspring in the Philippines. But when the strain on her mother appeared too great, the then 17-year-old enrolled in the district-wide alternative program. “He looks forward to the daycare. He’s like my alarm clock in the morning. ‘I want to go to daycare, I want to go to daycare,'” says Ang, who shares a bed with Rainier in the two-bedroom main floor of a house her dad rents. Her mom, now a live-in caregiver, visits on weekends.

“Like, right now, if I were to drop him off there, he’d open the gate to go to where the toys are. He won’t even say bye to me or hug me or kiss me or anything,” she adds with a laugh.

While Rainier benefits from socializing with other kids, Ang benefits from the early childhood care workers’ expertise.

She didn’t think Rainier was ready to be potty trained but daycare staff showed her he was.

“I have, I have blue underwear,” boasts the bouncing little boy with saucer-sized brown eyes while he washes his hands after downing some cream of spinach soup at the daycare.

“I’ll look out through the window and just see him playing and it just really makes me happy to see him happy, as well, that he’s doing really well and he’s made some positive relationships with the kids there, too,” she adds.

The school board and the YWCA Metro Vancouver started the program for young parents in 1983.

Read online