Like many parents, Torie Coates works 40 hours a week, cares for her 3-year-old son, D'Mari, and even goes to school.
The difference is Torie is only 17 and is a senior at Annapolis Senior High School.
But she has no plans to drop out of school because of her seemingly overwhelming responsibilities.
"Education is important to me," Torie said. "Without it, you're going nowhere."
Torie was one of about 100 high school students with children who attended a teen parent conference at Anne Arundel Community College on Friday.
The forum was sponsored by the Parenting Group, a student club at Annapolis High School, which used part of a $5,000 grant from the county Department of Health.
The grant is available through the department's parenting program, said Mary West, grant administrator for the department's prevention services.
"The purpose was to provide positive parent training to a teen population dealing with teen pregnancies," West said. "We're hoping to develop more positive parent skills and techniques."
Bonita Sims-Stanton, who coordinates the Parenting Group and is an administrator at Annapolis High, said the 40-member club applied for the grant last year to offer teen parents in other county schools a chance to discuss some of the obstacles they have faced.
"This population is looked down on because of the mistake they made," she said. "We want to lift them up."
Conference organizer Alice Harris, who works for the Business and Workforce Development Center, which authorizes the grant, said programs such as the forum are needed to encourage teen parents to find affordable day care, decide on a college or a career and juggle homework and parenting.
"They're at risk of dropping out" of school, she said. "The odds are against them."
Meade Senior High School is the only school in the county with a day care center.
Layshawn Fisher, an 18-year-old senior from Annapolis with a year-old daughter, said her life has changed drastically. Instead of partying with friends or going to the movies, she spends her weekday afternoons and weekends tending to patients at Anne Arundel Medical Center's new Women's Center.
She also has to study about two hours a night so that she can graduate and go to college.
"Sometimes I wish I would've waited longer so that I could go to college in another state," Layshawn said. "But I'll just look for something around Annapolis now."
And it's not just teen mothers who attended the conference.
Tony Herring, a 19-year-old junior at Meade, said he works at a gym in Millersville every day to help support his 2-year-old son, Treey.
"He's my responsibility," Herring said. "He's going to know that he has a father who is always going to be there for him."
The parents agreed that their lives are enriched, rather than diminished, by their children.
"He is a blessing to me," Meade senior Christina Wagner, 17, said of her 14-month-old son, Andrew.
Pub Date: 12/22/96