Finding Safe Haven at the Center of a National Debate

PHOTO Despite becoming a mother at just 14, Mahogany is determined to graduate from high school

It's late afternoon and a new mother is desperately trying to get her son to sleep. She has homework to do and a crying baby isn't good for concentration.

"I'm exhausted and tired and it's kind of getting on my nerves, but you just have to deal with it," Mahogany says. Mahogany became pregnant between the eighth and ninth grades, and gave birth to her son Khaesyn just two weeks before her 15th birthday.

Mahogany's situation is typical of many teenage mothers: She's the daughter of a single mother who was also a teenage mother; her son's father is only sporadically involved in his life and basic necessities are not always readily available.

When "Primetime" visited her Louisville home, there was no electricity.

Watch the premiere of "Primetime: Family Secrets" Tuesday, June 23 at 10 p.m. ET.

Although there are a lot of things she doesn't have, Mahogany does have a very special school to help her.

After she gets her son to sleep, a teacher from the Westport Teenage Parent Program (TAPP) arrives to help her catch up with homework.

TAPP, one of two schools in Louisville for pregnant teens, has provided educational, medical and daycare support services to the city's teen moms and moms-to-be since 1970. Current enrollment is 320 girls and TAPP will provide on-site nursery care to 190 babies this year.

Mahogany enrolled in TAPP when she was five-and-a-half months pregnant. In addition to the logistical support it provides, Westport TAPP is also a safe haven for girls like Mahogany who sometimes feel isolated and ostracized during their pregnancies.

"I didn't want to face anybody. I didn't want to go to school, so that's when I heard of TAPP," Mahogany says. "This was the only place I knew I could go to."

When everyone's pregnant, no one can judge.

Despite the obvious challenges, Mahogany is driven to succeed and says she doesn't want anyone's pity. She also hopes to be the first one in her family to graduate from college.

'Knew I Was Gonna End Up Having a Baby at a Young Age'

"I want to be an English teacher or a veterinarian," Mahogany says. "I gets As and Bs. But I'm not really satisfied with the Bs. I'm trying to get all As."

While only 60 percent of teen mothers graduate from high school, TAPP boasts a 96 percent graduation rate. Mahogany's own mother attended TAPP. Daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen mothers. Mahogany feels it was an impossible cycle to break.

"Somehow, I just knew that I was gonna end up ... having a baby at a young age," she says.

For a teenage mother, TAPP makes it easier to stay in school. One side of the school teaches traditional high school classes, like science and English. The other side has five child care centers, with Beatrix Potter-inspired names for the nurseries, like Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.

In the middle of the school is an on-site clinic where doctors and nurses can keep an eye on the pregnant girls and, after they give birth, their newborns. Pink lockers are spread throughout the building to encourage the young mothers to behave "like ladies."

"What's different about this school, in terms of alternative schools for pregnant parenting teens, is we have all of the support services under one roof. We have social services, we have a medical clinic. We have our child care," principal Sarah York says.

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