Teen Mom in First Class of CUNY's New Community College
BUSHWICK — In her burgundy cap and gown, Ayana Rosado will cross the stage at the Bushwick School for Social Justice this Tuesday, and receive her diploma. The next night, the lanky 18-year-old will twirl in a pearl-colored strapless dress at her senior prom.
And when the New Community College at CUNY — the city's first new community college in nearly 40 years with an aim "to drastically improve graduation rates for students with a diverse range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds," according to its website — opens its Midtown Manhattan doors for an inaugural batch of freshmen in September, Rosado will be one of the 300 pioneers.
She wants to set a good example for her 5-month-old son.
"We're the first students that got accepted," she said, smiling with her baby, Mekhi, in her arms outside her public school last week.
Rosado is among the city's 6.2 percent of new mothers who are teens. That percentage nearly doubles in her neighborhood of East New York and in Bushwick, where more than one in 10 new moms are teenagers, according to the Department of Health.
But Rosado, who has been helped out by a daycare in her Irving Avenue school's building and by family members, said she would not surrender her ambition to achieve.
"I wasn't going to give up school... I want to be a lawyer," said Rosado, who said she dropped Mekhi off at the building's childcare facility as soon as he was old enough to register. "I'd take him with me on the subway and drop him downstairs and then go upstairs to school...and I'd visit him on my lunch break."
Mark Rush, Rosado's principal at the Bushwick School for Social Justice, said the LYFE center (the building's daycare for the four schools in the building) had helped Rosado and other students see their children while remaining in class.
"The LYFE Center is truly a life saver (a little corny but true)," he wrote in an email. "It allows for students to stay in school and get really great care for their babies. They can see them at lunch and we have regular celebrations for them like a holiday party."
Rush noted that Rosado's motivation had actually increased upon becoming pregnant, even though she had always been one of the brightest students in the high school.
"Ayanna had a really rough first couple of years...Then she got pregnant and it could have been a really sad story after that," he said. "But, Ayanna obviously made up her mind that that was not going to happen, because she literally did a 180 and turned herself and her studies around. There was a noticeable change and we all remarked on it.
"I am really proud of her."
Rosado, who says the responsibility of caring for a child far exceeded her expectations, said that she now advises her friends to be more vigilant about protected sex — and that her biggest hope is now for her son's academic success.
"It's hard," she said of juggling school and motherhood. "But I want him to go to school, too, and graduate and go to college."