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Student Wants Child Care and Honors Courses

Student Wants Child Care and Honors Courses

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Millcreek High School offers child care for students with children, but it doesn't provide honors and advanced-placement courses.

Dixie High has the courses but not the child care.

Sixteen-year-old Nicole Vasquez wants both.

She took her 9-month-old son, Dustin, to school Monday, but, as she expected, she was not allowed to attend classes, and the principal asked her to go to an interview at Millcreek.

Vasquez maintains she should be allowed to attend a mainstream high school and still get child care.

Unless she attends Millcreek High School or works 15 hours per week, she does not qualify for state assistance for child care. Vasquez said she was told that her husband's $800 per month income is too high to receive assistance.

Because Millcreek High School does not offer honors or advanced placement courses, she fears she would not be pushed academically there.

"I don't need to be segregated; I think I should go to Dixie High," she said.

Vasquez said she always has been a motivated student. She was president of her freshman class at Tooele High School, president of the sign language club, a member of the yearbook staff and enrolled in a concurrent college course.

Despite frequent taunting by classmates, Vasquez went to school every day during her pregnancy, including two days of contractions, she said. Dustin was born Nov. 21 of her sophomore year, but she still achieved a 3.6 grade-point average, she said.

Shortly after she married, the couple moved to St. George for her husband's job working for a moving company.

Now she wants to finish her education at Dixie High School and Dixie State College, but she is being stigmatized, she said.

Vasquez said she has lived on welfare most of her life as her single mother was not able to get an education. She wants to break the cycle and hopes to teach sign language someday. She is signed up for a college-level sign language course through Dixie State College.

Vasquez said that if she is not able to find child care for her son, she may send him to live with her mother while she finishes school.

Colleen Peck, department supervisor at the St. George office of the Department of Workforce Services, said welfare reforms adopted during the Clinton administration require a married couple work a minimum number of hours to receive child care.

Funding is limited, and the requirements are designed to make the opportunities available to as many people as possible, she said. Those who receive state assistance are chosen on a case-by-case basis, and there are many factors to consider, she said.

Peck said Workforce Services employees have talked extensively with Vasquez to let her know what she could do to receive assistance.

Peck said Millcreek was designed to provide child care for those in Vasquez's situation.

Millcreek High School Principal Terry Ogborn said the school's day care center is a model program for the state, providing students with free child care. A concerned mother can check on her baby throughout the day.

Ogborn said that although the school does not offer honors or AP classes, it tries to meet the individual needs of students and sometimes makes arrangements for students to take some classes at other schools.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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