Teen mothers get help

Alisa Boswell: Portales News-Tribune

Chaynee Lupercio, 18, helps her 1-year-old son, Aiden, down a slide at the Portales High School childcare center on a Tuesday afternoon. Lupercio said she would not be able to finish high school if not for the GRADS Program, which helps teen parents complete high school by providing daycare and parenting classes.

Portales High School senior Chaynee Lupercio chased her 1-year-old son, Aiden, around the playground of the high school daycare center on a Tuesday afternoon.

"I had Aiden in July then started school in August, so I only had a month with him and it was hard to get into a routine," said Lupercio, who missed multiple days of school her first semester back after having a baby and becoming a wife. "I was going to drop out. I was trying to balance being a wife and mother."

Aiden slid down the playground slide, giggling as his mother caught him again.

Lupercio said what changed her mind about dropping out in her last year was the GRADS Program at Portales High.

The program focuses on helping teen parents finish high school by providing them with daycare and parenting classes.

Lupercio said her becoming pregnant caused a rift between she and her parents for a short while but things have mended between them since.

"This past year, everything has gotten a lot better," Lupercio said. "My parents are supportive now and my sister helps me a lot. I don't feel so alone."

"I think that speaks for all the students. They've got really good family support," said Margie Tarango, the GRADS coordinator.

The students in the program all nodded in agreement, saying that family and friend support for their situations makes all the difference.

GRADS students/parents said the program also makes all the difference with teaching them everything from ways to communicate with their children to how to balance a checkbook to how to interview for a job.

Experts spoke recently to talk about the students about car seat safety and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Alisa Boswell: Portales News-Tribune

Monica Vicuna, left, watches 1-year-old Ruby's balance as she drives a car with Aiden Lupercio, 1, at the Portales High School childcare center. Vicuna said the support of her parents and the high school GRADS program makes a big difference with a single mother being able to finish high school.

"They call us in the evenings frequently to vent," said Shaunna Smith, the program's other coordinator, adding that they do not hesitate to be there for the teen parents in any way they can.

"I think the program helps them bond (with each other) too, because they realize they're not alone," she added. "I think they have more confidence in being a parent after awhile and in what to do with their kids."

Senior Monica Vicuna said if it weren't for the fact that she has daycare for her 1-year-old daughter, Ruby, she would not still be in school.

"I have to get up and get her ready then after school, I have to pay attention to her, so it can be hard to do homework," Vicuna said of her daily routine. "It's hard but it would be a lot harder if I didn't have the support from my parents and the program."

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