Nationwide, more than 4 out of 5 students graduate high school within four years of starting ninth grade. In Maine, it’s closer to 9 out of 10.

With so many students getting their diploma on time, it’s easy to forget about those who don’t. Fortunately, for one group of students, Maine has the Sharon Abrams Teen Parent School.

The school, started as part of Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers and now also aligned with the Waterville High School alternative education program, has provided support and guidance to pregnant teens and teen mothers for more than 40 years.

And they’ve done it well. The school has an 83 percent graduation rate, roughly double the nationwide rate, Maine Public reports. More than half of the students go on to get a college degree, compared to about 2 percent nationally.

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD

Through the school’s history, that’s somewhere around 1,000 Maine girls who didn’t have their lives derailed because of teen pregnancy – who were able to pursue their education and build a solid foundation on which to build their families.

Those girls – the school accepts boys, but few have taken part – faced a tough road when they got pregnant. Teen moms face bullying and isolation among their peers, pushing them away from the relationships that have given structure to their lives. There can be difficult relationships at home, too, and often teen moms end up on their own.

Many drop out at that point; others drop out later, once parenting duties leave little time or energy for school. Then there is the cost of child care and housing – and the uncertainty of low-income employment that comes along with being a teen parent without a high school diploma.

Left on this track, the mother and her child most likely would end up in poverty.

Sharon Abrams Teen Parent School helps the student take on all those challenges. Students who arrive there find others facing the same difficulties, some of whom are further along in re-centering their lives.

The school provides child care during the day, as well as diapers and wipes. They have classes on prenatal care and parenting along with the normal high school offerings. And they help students look for housing – many are couch-surfing when they arrive, the school said.

COVERING THE CRACKS

Students can stay for up to four years, so they get assistance and support through pregnancy, birth and early childhood. In essence, the school covers up the cracks in a system that otherwise fails teen moms.

If the Sharon Abrams school can do it, others can, too. How great would that be for the 600 new teen moms in Maine each year, or the 200,000 or so nationwide?

And what about the more than 23,000 teens who age out of foster care each year? Much like teen parents, they are often left without the guidance and support necessary to successfully negotiate early adulthood – just 30 percent graduate from high school and 20 percent go on to college.

That’s a lot of students who could do well with a little help, and who otherwise may fail to reach their potential, whatever that is. Even if it’s just 1 in 10, that’s too many.