135 Years, 135 Stories title image
Dropping out of school was no longer an option for me

SUZANNE, Maryland

“From the moment I walked into the PEARLS program, I felt a lot better… dropping out of school was no longer an option for me.”

By any set of measures, Suzanne is a successful young woman. In May 2013, she graduated from the University of Maryland and go to law school. She is the mother of a happy, healthy, smart daughter who was two when Suzanne graduated from high school. She is also, as she put it, “a product of PEARLS.”

Fifteen-years-old and pregnant, Suzanne was virtually led by the hand by the school nurse to her first Crittenton Services of Greater Washington’s PEARLS meeting. She had all but given up: “At one point,” she said, “I didn’t even want to finish school.” But in PEARLS, she found what she needed most. According to Suzanne, “from the moment I walked into the room and saw Ms. Deb, the PEARLS program leader, I felt a lot better. I didn’t feel she was judging me. The minute my favorite teachers found out that I was pregnant or that I had a child, their point of view completely changed. A lot of people thought I was just a failure. A lot of people said I wasn’t going to graduate from high school. With PEARLS, dropping out of school wasn’t an option for me. Ms. Deb said ‘no, you’re going to be in school.’ And so I said, ‘I can do it’ because I know I have the support system here.”

Beyond acceptance and encouragement, PEARLS provided information on growing a healthy baby, protecting oneself from future unwanted pregnancies, appropriately disciplining your child, forming healthy relationships, and managing stress. Moreover, Crittenton’s focus on goal setting was extremely important. “It was actually exciting. In PEARLS, they gave us a life planner.” And she still has it: “I looked at the planner and saw that I’ve achieved, or I’m on my way to achieving, a lot of the goals I set while I was in PEARLS. That got me a little bit emotional: looking back and saying wow, ‘I actually did it — not just graduating, but getting into college and maintaining good grades’.”

In sum, Suzanne says, “PEARLS made me stronger. It made me more mature. It made me more accepting of others and myself. It taught me that it’s okay to be able to stand up on my own two feet — to be the independent person that I’ve always tried to be, but still accept help.”

Learn more about Crittenton Services of Greater Washington and their programs.

Suzanne Story Photo