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Girls learn from instructor, each other in parenting class at Oklahoma City's Emerson Alternative High School

Emerson High School offers a parenting class for girls who are new or expecting moms. Students graduated from the program Wednesday.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: February 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

A girl with long, wavy black hair and baby footprints tattooed on her calf talked about how her son has been telling her he needs to use the bathroom, even though he's not 2 years old. Another girl said her son has been giving similar signals.

“I think he's ready,” said the girl with turtle shell glasses. “I think I'm going to try it.”

After class, Dejawn Roberts talked about what she's learned in the Family Builders class. She is a freshman and has a 9-month-old son named Jarron.

She's learned about things like discipline and nurturing. She's learned to redirect him instead of punishing him. She's learned that it's important for him to know he's loved; she spends a lot of time holding him.

“It's us having our private time with nobody else,” she said. “He falls asleep in my arms. He's so warm. It made me feel like I have somebody with me. I want to make sure he knows he has somebody else there with him.”

Talking with other girls — and instructors like Brill — has been helpful, she said.

“It actually makes me feel like I'm not the only one in this situation,” Roberts said. “There are people I can talk to about it. I'm not the only 15-year-old going through this with my baby. It's good to hear from other moms.”

Building that sense of community among the girls is invaluable, said Gayla Westbrook, program director for Family Builders

“For some of these kids, they don't feel comfortable talking about it with other people,” Westbrook said. “It's knowing that other people identify with what she's going through and how can we learn from this.”