Program turns parents into grads

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Portales High School’s Graduation Reality and Dual-Role Skills program had 73 percent graduation rate among eligible seniors and no repeat pregnancies last year, director Laura Adkins said.

Adkins gave an update on the GRADS program during the school board meeting Monday in the district’s Administration Building. Mothers in the program also spoke.

Iliana Perez said she had a 3-month-old son.

“And I’m really happy the GRADS program is available, because without it, I don’t think I could keep going to school,” she said.

In Portales, Adkins said, GRADS focuses on teenage mothers because few fathers choose to participate.

Adkins said the program teaches conflict resolution, healthy habits for babies and mothers, and wise decision-making.

“We’ve done a lot with students with grades and attendance and setting goals,” she said.

Students track their grades, behaviors, attendance and attitudes about school. When students notice they are lagging in an area, Adkins said, they brainstorm solutions.

“We mainly focus on preventing a second pregnancy in the GRADS program,” Adkins also said.

In addition, most teenage mothers have babies with low birth weights, Adkins said, but none of the Portales GRADS participants did last year.

Also, while Portales’ GRADS seniors had a 73 percent graduation rate last year, GRADS showed graduation rates of 90 percent in New Mexico and 40 percent nationwide, according to numbers Adkins provided. Of the three seniors who didn’t graduate last year, one earned her GED and Adkins hoped another was working toward a GED.

As for ages, the program has more younger students this year as compared to last year, with some as young as 14, Adkins said. She said this situation affects curriculum.

GRADS also offers a child care center with developmental screening and individualized programs.

“Just because we have the child care center and the program doesn’t make it a breeze,” Adkins said.

In other business, the board:

• renewed Superintendent Randy Fowler’s contract through the 2011-2012 school year.

• approved the sale of $1.7 million in bonds from the $9.5 million General Obligation Bonds authorized by voters last September.

• heard a request from students Johanna Levacy and Joella Goss to form a school-sponsored rodeo team.

• tabled the issue of a Youth Resource Team until the Feb. 3 meeting. The matter was also tabled at the last board meeting.

• approved donations for the Portales High choir’s planned trip to Washington, D.C. The Print Shop printed 800 tickets for a spaghetti fundraiser dinner and Altrusa International gave $5,000.