Local News

Johnston, Wake Program Helps Brighten Future For At-Risk Teens

Posted December 12, 2001 3:46 a.m. EST

— For 16-year-old Tracy Harris, missing a basketball shot in gym class is no big deal, but missing out on a shot at getting an education is a very big deal.

"You never know what's going to happen in the future, and an education is there to back you up," says the Clayton High School 10th-grader.

Getting an education has not been easy for Harris. A year ago she learned she was pregnant, and now, she is raising her infant son.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," Harris remembers. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe it.'"

Christal Edwards is the coordinator of a Johnston County program that is helping Harris. Edwards says the program, called "Yes I Can," helps a lot of teen parents, drop-outs, and others.

"A lot of them don't have much support," Edwards says. "They're from single parent homes where the parent is working all the time. There's not someone who can take them to work, to tell them, 'You need to go to school today.'"

The program helps kids like Harris stay in school and get job skills. Harris works in the Clayton High School office after class.

The program pays her wages. The school gets free labor, she gets experience.

"I could never find a job until I got in this program," Harris says. "They helped me out a lot."

Edwards says any little success makes it all worthwhile. And a little success for Harris now could mean big success in the future.

The program is paid for through a federal grant and is available to youth ages 14 to 21 in Johnston and Wake counties. The program also pays for job training and community college for students who graduate from high school.