BOISE, Idaho — There is a new high school in Boise for pregnant and parenting teenagers. Cardinal Academy Public Charter School is located on the Salvation Army's recently completed Booth Campus on Emerald Avenue.
Cardinal Academy is a free public charter school that offers these students in 9th-12th grade, ages 14-21, the opportunity to get their education and get the support they need to parent while they receive their diploma.
Cardinal staff member Amber Worthington knows all too well how important that help is. Worthington got pregnant when she was in high school and enrolled in what was then the Marian Pritchett High School for teen parents in Boise. It was there that she found a sense of security and support.
"I had goals that I wanted to accomplish. I wasn't going to let becoming pregnant change that entirely," Worthington said. "With being a teen parent there's always hardships and stress that come with that. I felt a lot of judgment outside of the school, but coming into the school I felt a sense of community and peace. I felt like I belonged."
Worthington graduated from Marian Pritchett High School in 2013 and went on to the College of Western Idaho. From there she went on to Northwest Nazarene University and earned her business degree. She is now happily married to her daughter's father. Her little girl was her inspiration.
"My daughter was with me at each graduation. She was in my stomach at my high school graduation and she was in the stands for both of my other degrees, from both CWI and NNU, cheering me on," Worthington told us proudly.
Worthington believes that success may not have happened without the support she had at Marian Pritchett High School when she was pregnant.
"I received a lot of help when I was a younger mom, and now I believe that I need to pay it forward and do my part," she said.
When she heard about the new Cardinal Public Charter School for pregnant and parenting teens, she just knew she had to be a part of it.
"Cardinal is such an amazing resource because they have daycare on-site that parents can utilize and not worry about where their child is while they are at school. They can eat lunch with their child so they can have that sense of doing their part of being there during the day, even while they are getting their education," she told KTVB. "We will also have doctors on-site coming to help the students. So they don't even have to leave for their checkups, ultrasounds, etc. We will have counselors on-site once a week or so to help be there for the students, too."
Cardinal co-founder and director Emily Bergstrom says the goal is simple for these teen parents.
"We want to wrap them in services that they need in order to find success. There had been a pregnant and parenting school in Boise for many years, and it was changing into something different and we were given the opportunity to open a new school," Bergstrom said. "Teen pregnancy is actually down quite a bit, so when they made that decision, we were given the opportunity to create a charter school to take its place. This gave us an opportunity to take all the things we loved about the former pregnant and parenting teen school and expand them and make them even stronger."
Now that schools are back to in-person learning, this is a unique opportunity for teen parents to get their education.
"So many of us have been at home since March of 2020. Being able to bring these students back in person with their babies, and being able to introduce them to other parents in a similar situation and who have also faced that isolation, that is really powerful," Bergstrom said. "We're able to welcome students from both Ada and Canyon counties, essentially doubling the number of students that we can make a program like this available to. We have already registered 50 students for fall, and we anticipate that we will have more. We will continue to grow during the school year."
Cardinal Academy's strongest and most important partnership is with The Salvation Army and the Booth Program for Young Parents. So many resources are at the students' fingertips. Students don't have to choose between working to support their new family and earning their high school diploma.
Cardinal Academy's most important partnership is with The Salvation Army, Boise Corps. They have been serving young parents in the Boise area for more than 100 years. They provide the school with the facility, social workers, manage the on-site childcare, provide financial assistance, teach parenting and life skills, and provide meals for the students and children. There is even an on-site incentive store where students can earn reward vouchers to purchase what they need for their kids.
Alicia Saheb Khan is one of the students who is already benefitting from enrolling in school at Cardinal. She is really excited about the school year and getting a step closer to graduating.
"I have two kids, and my education, graduating, is a really big part to me. Especially as a mom," Saheb Khan said. "Your children are literally downstairs and you can see them throughout the day. You can get diapers, clothes, shoes, for your kids, yourself. You can get playpens, cribs, anything you can think of for your kid. School costs you nothing, also you are going to be able to graduate and they help you the whole way. Everyone says you can't do it, but they help you and they make you do it, they help you do it."
Worthington will be one of those cheerleaders as part of the staff, helping young parents like Saheb Khan get their education, so she can move on to a better life.
"My graduation from high school set me up for a future of success. I want other teenage parents to have that same opportunity to succeed," Worthington said.
School starts this week. Enrollment is open now. This school isn't just for teen girls. Moms, dads, and children can learn and grow there on a single campus. For more information on Cardinal Academy Public Charter School, click HERE.
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