Shania McCrackin

Horlick High School student Shania McCrackin holds her son, Malachi McCrackin-Austin, on Thursday, May 29, 2014, at Next Generation Now, 1220 Mound Ave. McCrackin works at Next Generation Now and Malachi attends day care there. McCrackin had her son just before her senior year of high school. Despite the challenges of being a teen parent, she is graduating on time and with her class today. / Lindsay Bullock

RACINE — Horlick High School student Shania McCrackin wakes up at 4:30 a.m., about an hour before her 9-month-old son, Malachi, starts to stir.

McCrackin has them both ready to face the day by 6:20 a.m. Then she’s off to school and the baby is off to day care. After school, she works one or two jobs, depending on the day, then heads home with her son at about 6:30 p.m.

McCrackin spends the next three hours caring for her baby and trying to do homework while he crawls across her books and steals her papers. Then it’s off to bed for about six hours of sleep before McCrackin gets up and does it all over again.

McCrackin’s situation is far from easy and the majority of Racine Unified students who have children end up dropping out. But not McCrackin. She will graduate today on time and with her class and she has plans to study nursing in the fall.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I said, ‘I am going to graduate,’” McCrackin said. “I know the stereotypes that people get pregnant and they drop out. I was not going to be one of those people.”

McCrackin got pregnant in her junior year and found herself briefly at a crossroads.

“I knew I couldn’t do the things I want to do if I had a baby,” she said. “I had plans to go to college, play sports and be in a sorority.”

But she ultimately couldn’t bring herself to give the baby up. So plans changed.

McCrackin stopped playing high school sports and doubled down on school at Horlick, 2119 Rapids Drive. She gave birth in August, just two weeks before her senior year started, and she barely missed any class.

“I only missed like one day of school. Nobody believed it. They were surprised I was back,” she said. But “it was my senior year so I felt like if I fell behind then I’m going to be behind all year.”

McCrackin got two jobs so she could support herself and her baby. She works six hours a week as a caregiver for Society’s Assets and 15 hours a week as an assistant teacher at Next Generation Now day care, which her son attends.

She’s taken advantage of Racine Unified’s voluntary School-Aged Parenting Program, which connects students like McCrackin to community resources and offers in-school support groups as well as one-on-one help from district nurses to try to keep students in school.

Program Health Care Coordinator Judi Roehrich helped McCrackin get the job at Next Generation Now and steered her toward teen parent support groups.

McCrackin has been successful because of all those things but also because of who she is, Roehrich said.

“It’s her resiliency. She’s amazing. And that’s what’s keeps her going,” she said. “Her teachers and counselors have helped her but ... it’s her. It’s within.”

McCrackin, 18, said it also has something to do with her son. She knows having an education is essential for the two of them to have a good future, and that keeps her going. Plus, she wants to be a strong role model for him.

“I want to graduate to show him you can, like, ‘I got pregnant. I had you. I still graduated school.’”

School-aged parents by the numbers:

In the 2013-14 school year, 272 Racine Unified students were pregnant or parenting.

About 110 of those students chose not to enroll in school or dropped out as the year went on. There were 163 who took advantage of the district’s voluntary School-Aged Parenting Program.

Of students in the program, 85 are considered seniors. Only about 40 of them will graduate this year.

SOURCE: Diane Graebner, a health care coordinator with Unified’s School-Aged Parenting Program.

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