Special Report: Baby High

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - It's been a fixture in the Columbus community since 1998.

The Teenage Parenting Center  gives pregnant teens a chance to earn their High School diploma during and after pregnancy.

From the outside the Teenage Parenting Center looks like an ordinary school, but behind the doors is a glimmer of hope for the young mothers who attend.

Pat Turner, The Principal of the Teenage Parenting Center says "This is my years of success right here. If you look at these faces, these are all my success stories, my students and their children and most of their children are now older that are up there on the board, and without this school you wouldn't have this kind of success, you wouldn't have this wall right here of successes".

Turner has been running the school for more than a decade. During that time she's seen her fair share of young mothers come and go. Over 2,500 to be exact.

And with the school graduating 85% of its students right now she's noticed a slight decrease in the local drop out rate.

"Most of those girls wouldn't be able to graduate because they wouldn't be able to have the daycare, they wouldn't have the transportation for their baby to this school and that's a key element in having this school's existence right now, says Turner.

And it's those perks that are making a difference for the young mothers. Right now there are at least 135 students attending the school with 110 babies on campus. The school has 10 rooms in the childcare center and has two child care aids in each room. Not to mention school bus transportation that's fully equipped with baby seats on board.

Teen mother, Samantha Hood says, "I always say to myself if it wasn't for this school I wouldn't be in school at all, I wouldn't graduate."

Many of the young mothers were on the same page as Samantha, praising the school for being a convenient alternative for them and their babies.

When asked Do you think if this school didn't exist would you even try to graduate? teen mom Monica Lopez says, "Probably not! Honestly I wasn't thinking about going back to school when I found out because the fact that it was hard."

Every teen mom who attends the Parenting Center are assigned a home school. Once they have their babies they have a choice of whether to go back to that home school or stay at the Teenage Parenting Center.

Principal Turner says, "Once they have their babies, some of them opt to go back to their home schools, the majority of them will stay here through their senior year."

Teen mom Samantha says, "I got pregnant when I was in the seventh grade and I decided to come here because they don't give you the treatment at regular school that they give you here. With you being pregnant they're still going to treat you the same as the regular students."

Teen mom, Tessa Gibbs agrees. "I'm going to stay here, this school is going to help me watch my baby while everyone is at work says Gibbs."

It's this kind of service that keeps these moms in the classroom and it doesn't hurt that the student teacher ratio at the Pregnancy Center is much better than most traditional schools in the Columbus area.

"It just makes it easier for you to learn, the teachers help you more. It's not that many people in the classroom, so it's more attention to each person says teen mom Tessa Gibbs."

The Teenage Parenting Center is an accredited school in the state of Georgia. Additional funding for the school comes from child and parent services through the state of Georgia. By the way, the Teenage Parenting Center also has Pre-K and Early Head Start educators on staff to accommodate some of the older toddlers.