LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Teenagers from La Crosse County became mothers last year.
That's one reason for Hope Academy, which announced on Thursday they'll merge with the Family and Children's Center in La Crosse to help lower administrative costs and eliminate duplicate programming.
Both organizations said it makes sense to collaborate because they both have the same mission: to strengthen families and children.
The merger will help Hope Academy be more financially stable so they can help more teen moms, like 17-year-old Dayona Lee.
Starting a new high school was difficult for Dayona. Not only did she not know anyone when she moved here from Arkansas, but she was six months pregnant.
"Everyone would stare at me it was kind of hard because I felt like they were trying to judge me," Dayona said.
After her son Dayveonte was born, she decided Hope Academy was a better option for her.
"I think it's really easy that way I can keep my son with me because I'm breastfeeding and then I know where he is. And if I was in public school it would be kind of difficult."
It's difficult for a lot of teen moms; on average 40-percent of them drop out of school.
Tricia Brainard, Hope Academy Director, said the point of Hope Academy is to help teen moms earn their high school diploma, while also learning parenting skills.
"Teen moms tend to have an intergenerational cycle of under-education, poverty, unemployment. So I think a program that addresses those needs is vital to the community," Brainard said.
Dayona is determined not to become part of the statistics.
"I've always wanted to finish school because after school I want to go to college to be in cosmetology and get my business degree so I can own my own salon," Dayona said.
Hope Academy has helped her stay true to her own dreams and even dream bigger for her handsome son.
"I want him to be happy with whatever he does," Dayona said. "I want him to finish high school and get a college degree. Try to keep him off the streets because I really don't like all that stuff."
She says it's so important to her to graduate to set a good example for Dayveonte so he can see she was successful even though she was a teen mom.
Hope academy will begin classes in their new building in January.
Their new space will allow them to expand from having room for ten students to 15.
For information on enrolling in Hope Academy call 608-791-4673.
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