If you’ve driven down Dayton Street towards Montview, you may have seen them playing. Or riding their bright yellow tricycles in a small fenced-in schoolyard. Or perhaps they were walking in a line, paired with a buddy as they returned from a neighborhood park. They are the next generation, the children of the young women and men who study each day at Aurora’s New Legacy Charter School to earn their high school diplomas.
New Legacy completes its fourth academic year this spring, a milestone for the school as well as for two generations: students and their children. Each day, approximately 100 pregnant and/or parenting teens from Aurora, Denver, Cherry Creek, and Adams County defy national statistics by coming to class and working towards graduation. Whereas nationally only about 40% of teen parents have a diploma by age 21, according to Executive Director Steven Bartholomew, 78% of New Legacy students graduate.
New Legacy student Cece Burgess recalls being a student at East High School and enjoying its freedoms so much that she ending up “ditching” a lot. At 15, she became pregnant. “I thought that was the end for me.” A Google search turned up New Legacy, and now both she and her 5-month-old daughter, Azariyah, are students. While Burgess finishes high school, her daughter benefits from the research-based curriculum at the Early Learning Center in the same building.
Burgess acknowledges that a traditional school could not have met her needs, given where she was in her life. New Legacy’s guidance and parenting helped shift her perspective. “Now I want a career, and not just a job,” she says. She is determined to go to college, and has already decided she wants to become a medical assistant. “I will be more than a statistic. Before New Legacy I was on the fast pass to self-destruction, but now I have a future,” says Burgess.
This determination to make a better life for their children is a theme for many of the students. “All of our graduates have applied to college, with some going to college, others working, and still others taking advantage of technical-vocational programs,” says Bartholomew, who is completing his first year as the school’s Executive Director.
Alumnus Julissa Martinez began at New Legacy at age 16, when she was 5 months pregnant. She doubted that she could graduate, but the “outstanding” teachers and staff at the school helped her transform her expectations. When she graduated in 2017, she had been accepted to two universities, and could choose her next steps. She is now a sophomore majoring in Social Work at Metro State University, where her daughter Isabella is enrolled at the Auraria Early Learning Center. With a career in Child Protective Services, she hopes to advocate for children who are in vulnerable situations.
New Legacy, an independent charter, includes seven high school classrooms as well as a clinic space. The curriculum features core classes as well as parenting classes, a parenting lab, and a robust health and wellness program. Physical and mental health resources, attendance support, academic counseling, and substance abuse prevention round out the school’s offerings. The school’s Early Learning Center has eight classrooms for children ages 6 weeks to age 5. “We’re not just here for high school,” states Britta Carlisle, a certified doula and the school’s maternal and mental health manager. “We are here for the next generation, so that they are more prepared for kindergarten and have the social and language skills to succeed; they have the foundations for learning, which is equally part of our mission.”
New Legacy hopes to purchase its building next year. An anonymous donor has offered to match the first $1 million raised by spring 2020, to boost the capital campaign. To donate, go to: https://www.newlegacycharter.org/donate/