When a teenaged/pre-teen girl discovers she’s pregnant, her life changes far more than she could ever have expected. Too often one of the first changes she makes is to drop out of school, sacrificing one of her most important opportunities for a good future. To help solve that problem, DPS created the Catherine Ferguson Academy.
At Ferguson, the main goals are to educate the young mothers and prepare them for a good future. “We want our girls to know that becoming a mother in your teens does not mean you are doomed to a dead end life,” said Ms. Andrews. All students are schooled in the core curriculum of English, math, science and social studies in a family-like, accepting environment. Along with the academics there is ‘real life’ learning about raising a child and how to function as a knowledgeable, independent and productive adult. “The responsibility of providing food, shelter and other basic needs in life should not be stressful. They have the right to look forward to a rewarding life and we help them achieve it” said Ms. Durant.
The school offers early education classes for infants and toddlers along with business partners who can help needy students meet their child’s basic needs such as food, clothing and medical care. Social workers, counselors and other staff can also put the students in touch with community services like WIC, the Children’s Center, DHS, Alternative for Teens, Positive Images, the Detroit Health Department and Legal Aid for specialized assistance, along with career counseling, mentoring and tutoring. The all-female student body is something the students seem to appreciate.
Everything at the school encourages young mothers to stay on the right ‘life’ track. This structure has led to a graduation rate of over 90% at Ferguson with most of the girls going on to college. It has also earned Ferguson a national award and a waiting list. Added to those is Ferguson’s Farm, complete with goats, chickens, vegetable gardens, a horse, beehives and more where the ‘city girls’ have taken to the farm like they’ve always lived there. Boykin students generally go back to their home school after about a year, but they go back prepared to cross the finish line with a real ‘life changer’…a high school diploma.
The Catherine Ferguson Academy is named after a freed slave who, although illiterate, dedicated her life to educating others in the early 1800s.