June 13th, 2013
11:59 AM ET

Fighting for the 'throwaway' girls

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) - A winter's thicket of weeds still choked the soil outside Catherine Ferguson Academy late last month when the old school's loudspeaker crackled on.

"Good morning, good morning, good morning," Principal Asenath Andrews belted out. "It's a bright, sunny, ready-to-garden day!"

For decades, this is where Detroit's pregnant teens and young mothers have come to earn their diplomas. It's the only school in the city that gives them space to study while their babies are cared for just down the hall.

For the 100 students at Catherine Ferguson, high school diplomas are the minimum expectation; college acceptance letters are the aim. It has a reputation for academic rigor and comprehensive study: Students might spend afternoons on internships, weeks traveling overseas and hours working small plots on the school's farm.

On the walls, there are posters encouraging condom use, photos of newborns and beaming images of Catherine Ferguson graduates, all in their gowns, caps and tassels.

"Remember," Andrews signs off her morning announcement, "smart is what you get, not what you are."

Girls trickle outside, grumbling about the heat and mess of the farm, but intrigued by the seedlings of basil, arugula and cabbage. They fling handfuls of dirt at each other as they paw through a season of overgrowth. Over the years, the school's abandoned playground evolved into a spread of apple trees, honeybees, chickens, goats and garden plots - creatures and greenery tended to by students and a pack of volunteers.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. mattk

    elping teenage girls stay in school while providing no assistance for all the boys not in school.
    Makes total sense
    Education one half and leave the other half out to rot.

    June 25, 2013 at 8:46 am |