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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

Miranda Lopez

Teen Mom Taking Baby Steps at Youngsville School

By Jeanne Sager
YOUNGSVILLE — March 27, 2007 — Miranda Lopez couldn’t wait to get back to school.
The 17-year-old gave birth to her daughter, Leilani, on Feb. 5. Less than three weeks later, she returned to her classes at BOCES’ Youngsville alternative school.
Lopez is a prime example of why the school works, said Administrator AJ Berger.
“Miranda isn’t squeaky clean,” he said. “But she came here and loves it, is doing really well, has no discipline issues since she came here.”
Lopez readily admits she was nothing but trouble back in her home district of Liberty.
“I was fighting, not going to school, arguing with teachers,” she explained.
“At Liberty, I didn’t think I was going to be able to graduate,” Lopez continued. “Here I can.”
When she does, Lopez said she’ll go to college.
She wants to be a doctor. She wants to treat children with cancer.
Lopez was 9 years old when doctors found a tumor on her kidney.
She went through surgery and chemotherapy, lost a year of school and had to fight to regain her place in her classes.
She spent a year in Westport, where she worked her way back onto the honor roll.
But when Lopez moved back to her hometown, she slowly went back downhill.
She says she spent too much time with the wrong people. Even if she went to school, she didn’t go to class.
Then she heard about the Youngsville school run by BOCES.
“I wanted to come here,” she explained.
She knew she had not just herself to think about but the baby growing in her stomach.
When she started the ninth grade in Youngsville, Lopez said she found teachers who gave her respect.
In turn, she stopped being the kid who talked back.
Instead, she turned to the teachers for help. And she got it.
Lopez is now passing every subject. She’s got the highest grades in the freshman class in social studies and English.
She’s earned the Principal’s Award and a Mentoring Award.
“She’s motivated,” explained school counselor Kathy Garlick. “She takes initiative.
“She wants to do well,” Garlick continued. “She sees that it’s possible.”
Lopez credits the school environment.
Teachers are kind. The setting is informal. She can run to the store if she wants.
When Lopez had to take off two months of school because of her pregnancy, she had help to keep up with all of her schoolwork.
Even being pregnant, Lopez said no one treated her differently.
She’s made new friends at the Youngsville school, and Lopez said she’s lucky to have family support to juggle motherhood with being a student.
Leilani still spends a fair portion of her time sleeping, allowing her mom time to complete her homework.
That’s where Lopez said she puts her focus – school and her daughter.
Going out in Liberty isn’t for her. Her old friends are there
“Old friends you get in trouble with,” she said matter-of-factly.
Leilani doesn’t need that, Lopez said.
“I knew I didn’t want to have the violence around when I have her,” Lopez explained.
So what does she do these days?
“I do my work and pay attention in class,” she said with a grin.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories saluting teens who have turned their lives around thanks to the BOCES Youngsville Alternative School. It will culminate in this Friday’s issue with a look at the school itself.

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