Being a teen in Milwaukee is hard. Raising a child while being a teen is even harder. The Milwaukee Public School (MPS) district’s Pregnant and Parenting Youth Program (PPYP) aims to improve the educational, wellness, and social/emotional outcomes for school-age parents and their children.
The essence of PPYP began in 1966 as one school specifically focused on serving pregnant moms and grew over the years to become what it is today, a city-wide program that serves both young men and young women in the MPS district, in whichever school they wish to attend.
Meredith Welch, Specialized Services Program Supervisor at MPS explains that lack of resources and financial and emotional poverty are the largest barriers for Milwaukee teens. “Our students face circumstances that have really made it difficult for them to move forward and thrive like some of their peers. When you don’t feel like you have the support that you need or the resources to do the things that you see other folks are able to successfully do, that’s a major hurdle.”
PPYP has a meaningful impact on students. Graduation rates have increased over the past few years and attendance rates are higher for students who participate in the program vs. those that don’t. Meredith also sees students self-report that they are feeling more supported emotionally. “A telltale sign of how well they’re doing is that they continue to come back to us year after year. They feel that connection and that support.”
One of the ways PPYP supports students is through its partnership with SecureFutures. Volunteers bring SecureFutures’ Money Sense program to workshops, educating students in the PPYP program about money management essentials like banking, creating a savings plan, managing a budget, and maintaining healthy credit. According to Meredith, the Money Sense program helps students have an understanding that they don’t just go to work to be able to buy things for the here and now, but to think about what it means for them and their child in the long term. “It’s important for our students to be able to have a better understanding of what it looks like to be in a space that is financially solid.”
At the end of every workshop students fill out an exit survey and they consistently comment that the Money Sense program was helpful for them and how appreciative they are to be able to learn money management skills. Meredith can see the gears turning in students’ heads as volunteers present the lessons, noting that participants will often say during the sessions, “I didn’t know about this, this is great!” Even some of the adult staff find themselves learning new things.
Meredith’s hope is that the stigma around MPS students, both teenage parents and non-parents, is removed and that they can continue to create an encouraging space for them. “Our kids work so hard, they are so hopeful and really just want to be able to be successful. Being able to be supportive of them, whether that means mentoring them or giving them access to resources like Money Sense, is really important.”