After Carmen Cintron of New London gave birth to her son, William, when she was only 15, she ended up dropping out of high school due to absences.
Now 21, she has earned her GED and is going to attend college this fall. Looking back, she regrets that her education had to wait.
“Always having to put my son first, instead of myself,” was difficult, she said.
While the rate of teen pregnancy has dropped 9 percent since 2013 nationally, it remains a major reason that girls drop out of high school.
Dosomething.org reports that more than 50 percent of teen mothers never graduate from high school. It also found that 24 percent of teenage mothers have a second child just about 24 months after having their first baby.
Fewer than two percent of teen mothers earn a college degree by the age of 30, the website said.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 30 percent of all teenage girls who drop out of school cite pregnancy and parenthood as key reasons.
The Support of Pregnant and Parenting Teens program is a state-run, school-based grant initiative that is available in five Connecticut school districts with the highest teen pregnancy and school dropout rates. Those cities are Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and Waterbury.
The programs offer students in grades 9 to 12 help in improving the health, education and social outcomes for pregnant and parenting students and their children. The main goal of the program is to increase retention and graduation rates, its website says.
Heather Mills, co-executive director of the Pathways/Senderos Center in New Britain, said teen pregnancy rates have dropped for several reasons.
“Teens have more access than ever before to information related to sex,’’ she said, “whether that is a sex-ed class, information on the Internet or programs like Pathways/Senderos Center.”
Mills said her center talks to teens about abstinence and provides them with accurate information about how they can protect themselves.
“Our program helps break the cycle of teen motherhood by showing our participants that they are capable of having a future beyond teen parenthood,’’ she said.
While New Britain has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Connecticut, Pathways/Senderos has seen success.
“We only serve 60 students at a time, but over the 20 years our program has been open, there have only been three pregnancies that have occurred,’’ Mills said.
It could not be determined if graduation rates also have increased.
“We currently do not have statistics about the graduation rates among girls specifically,’’ Mills said. “However, the graduation rate in New Britain is 64 percent, compared to 85 percent statewide.”
Cintron, the New London mother, said all of her goals have been focused on her son.
“I wanted to give William the best I could,’’ she said. “[I] just wanted to give him more lessons, so he won’t make mistakes like I have.”
Jailene Pellot is a student at the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, New Haven.