Parenting isn’t easy whether you’re forty or fifteen. We all experience the same things just at different stages. Deciding to take on the challenge and responsibility of being a parent isn’t easy. That’s why I would like to tell you about a group of teenage parents back at school. The girls here have guts, determination and thoughts of success and happiness bordering on their horizons.

He Huarahi Tamariki is a School for Teenage Parents. “Of course you can do it!” Is our school motto.

I started here in March 2006 I have witnessed laughter, teamwork, drama and success but the thing that stands out the most to me though is the love.

The love we have here is for our work, our education, each other and most of all our children.

When people ask me now what am I doing with myself, I quite proudly tell them I’m a full-time Mum and a full-time student at HHT.

Wondering how I can be both? Well, the thing with Teen Parent Units is that our childcare is in the same building as our school. If a problem arises with our children we are less than a phone call away, in fact just a few steps. We are able to study while our children interact with others and learn some independence.

A common question many have is, what do you do there? Do you all go to learn about baby stuff?

Well, we can. There is a Pregnancy and Childcare course run by the head of our own childcare but that’s the least on offer here. Our weekly programme consists of many subjects. Mathematics is taught and there are separate classes for Statistics, Measurement and Algebra. Our English teacher takes five different levels of English classes as well as Media Studies and Computing. Our Travel and Tourism teacher obviously helps the girls with Travel – a very popular subject, French – his country of origin, Geography – another worldly topic and also assists with our Maori workshop class. Our Social Sciences teacher covers Social Studies, History and is quite talented in the Art department so she takes two levels of art including NCEA Art. We also have a Science teacher who takes Classics and helps out with individual tuition and literacy. You may think our teachers are to busy for extra classes but with the small amount of students there is room for some one on one tutoring which is very beneficial and helps the student to work at their own pace and independent level. Along with our regular classes, The Correspondence School offers many other courses in which our students may be interested. Two weeks a year like any other school we have work experience. The girls are able to spend that time in the workforce learning what may come in the future. It also gives us the chance to test out jobs to see if that’s where we may see ourselves.

Electives run every Wednesday and give us the chance to develop some creative skills and get away from the ‘books!’ We have the choice to do some cooking with a well experienced chef or the opportunity to make scrap books for our children. We can also choose Kapa Haka Class or Quilting.

We had the chance of joining Stage Challenge. This was an opportunity for the girls to get together, brainstorm some ideas and to have some fun. We performed a dance and drama piece in a competition with other secondary schools. We won six awards for our piece.

The school has a strong student focus. A student committee is elected every year by the students themselves. This gives the girls a chance to display and develop communication, leadership and organization skills. The cleaning of the school is also led by the students.

Student duty managers delegate eight duties a day evenly throughout the week. Duties are run solely by the students, and save money on professional cleaners. The benefit of this is we are able to employ our own cook who prepares a light snack for morning tea and a hot lunch at lunchtime for the whole school to enjoy.

The school also provides for our physical wellbeing. Twice a week our very own personal trainer comes in for fitness! Cardio and sports games are the usual but Pilates is also there for the mothers to be!

A great deal of what is provided comes from outside support. Work and Income bring advice and answer many of our questions once a fortnight. Being parents, and needing regular check ups for ourselves and our children we have a Doctor and Nurse who come in and help with health problems once a week. Plunket visits us for our children and Family Planning visits us too. Sometimes in life things get a bit tough so every Monday we have a Guidance Counsellor come in and offer her time to help with any issues arising for individuals. Our school is strongly supported by volunteers it’s difficult to express our appreciation to them. Through the help of our volunteers the girls have passed licenses and have been able to secure themselves their own home.

We have a “van run” which helps those of us without transport to school. Girls are picked up early in the morning with their children and then are dropped off after school.

The Girls benefit so much from school. We have what we like to call a “community of supporters,” many anonymous. AXA has been one of our strongest supporters as we are their chosen ‘Hearts in Action’ group.

There are so many people out there who have believed in us and have taken time out of their days to help us with our future. Every little piece of support is recognized and never forgotten.

Our school celebrates our successes. Graduation is one of our favourite times of the year as we are able to reflect on the great things that have happened during the year. Last year’s graduation I saw scholarships handed out to some very fortunate students I witnessed one girl head down all year get a scholarship into one of New Zealands greatest art schools. All her hard work as a studying teenage parent paid off, there are many successes that I have and haven’t witnessed at our school. The pride in past students success remains and we are reminded of it all the time.

He Huarahi Tamariki has given me a new start in life. The girls here are more than friends, we are a family. We love our school and it loves us back. If you’ve ever thought of going back to school you should have enrolled as soon as you thought of it. You have nothing to lose just so much to gain!

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Kararaina is a 19 year old teen parent with one son (Charlie) who is 23 months. Kararaina had Charlie when she was 17 and has been at school since he was 3 months. She loves her school (obviously) and enjoys how busy it keeps her. She enjoys being a mum, for her its the best life she could possibly have, as Charlie drives her to success. She only does what she does because of Charlie. He makes all the stress of school, home and housework worth it at the end of the day.

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