Woodburn's Creative Learning Center focuses on teen parent program
The 25-year-old Creative Learning Center was celebrated last Thursday evening for its trailblazing approach to helping teen parents finish their education.
The CLC opened on the Woodburn High School campus in January 1993, and has provided not only a free resource to teen parents, but also a preschool to community members (including teachers) and a teaching environment for high school students (the class itself hasn't been provided for 10 years now, but is likely to return soon thanks in part to Measure 98 funds for career technical education).
The CLC, the vision for which was started by current Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology Principal Geri Federico, started because of a lack of resources for teen parents.
"Up to that point, districts had not been required to provide an education for teen parents," Federico recalled. "So I looked in the community and found that teen parents had very limited options."
With little to no childcare choices that a teen could afford, many just dropped out of school altogether, a choice that often bore ill consequences for both parent and child.
With support from the county health and human services departments, and from the superintendent and school board at the time, the program in Woodburn launched in fall 1992, with building, provided through a grant, being built on the Woodburn High School campus and opened in January 1993.
"The district had to take a stand, and at the time it wasn't a popular decision," Federico said.
The center, which was co-founded and led by Sue Arndt until her retirement in 2007, is free for teen parents to leave their children ages 6 weeks to 5 years, as long as they pursue their education.
"It may seem expensive, but it is important," Arndt said. "It's worth the money spent."
The teen parents aren't expected to just drop off their kids and leave, but they learn appropriate parenting behaviors as modeled by teachers and community members who also can take advantage of the few open slots in the preschool.
"At the time (it opened), statistics showed that a child of a teen parent has more issues growing up," Federico said. "So we wanted to break that cycle. And we've done that, I think."
She said there have been several success stories, including one of the first teen parents who is now a teacher in a district and whose son recently graduated from Stanford University.
Arndt, who also taught the child development class to high school students, also noted she gets stopped randomly by former teen parents, like recently at the outlet mall, who thank her for helping them get through a tough part of life.
"She said, 'Nobody believed I could do it but you, and that meant a lot,'" Arndt said. "We wanted them to have the opportunity of a regular high school education and take classes everyone else was taking."