Just 17, Laura Eller has a 15-month-old daughter, Gracie. And at age 22, Aerial Monroe is already a mother of two children, son Jaydyn, 4, and daughter Jai-Yah, 3 months.
But because they want to be defined by more than parenthood and want to provide bright futures for their children, both are completing their high-school education at Mountain View School.
A HERNDON resident, Eller attended Oakton High, but came to Mountain View in September 2004 as a junior. "Gracie was seven months old, and the people at Oakton weren't all that accepting of the fact that I had a baby," she explained. "But here, it was like a big family — everyone's very warm and open."
Monroe, of Chantilly, transferred from Centreville High in 2000, gave birth to her son in 2001 and returned to Mountain View in November 2004. At Centreville, she said, she wasn't "on track" academically.
"When I came here, it was a lot easier," she said. "Classes were smaller and the teachers were more understanding. They understood our problems and what we were going through, and they treated us like adults. My grades went from a 'D' average to an 'A' and 'B' and I was understanding the work I was doing."
Eller said teachers at Mountain View assist pregnant and parenting students in many ways. "They help you sign up for scholarships and learn about different benefits," she said. "And it's really cool because we [moms] all help each other out. For example, we'll borrow baby clothes from each other. And the school will help find daycare, if you need it."
She's also enjoyed and appreciated the school's monthly Lunch and Learn series presenting a variety of topics. For instance, a dentist will teach the students how to care for their children's teeth and gums, a pediatrician will talk about childcare and a NOVA representative will speak about the advantages of attending a community college before going on to another college or university.
Eller was just 15 when she became pregnant with Gracie. "I thought about abortion, but it wasn't me," she said. "And although at times, it can be hard, I'm very glad I have her. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life."
She'll graduate in February 2006 and, this September, she'll start work on obtaining her licensed practical nurse (LPN) certification from a program at Falls Church High. Meanwhile, at Mountain View, she knows she matters.
"EVERYONE'S supportive," said Eller. "They ask how I am and how's my daughter, and they know her name. It's very personal; they really care. It's not just teacher and student — they're your friends."
As for Monroe, she had her son Jaydyn at age 18. "I felt like it was my responsibility to have him and not take the easy way out," she said. "It was time for me to grow up and learn. I'm more mature now, and they're both joyful."
After graduation, she hopes to attend a nursing school in Alexandria through a program run by T.C. Williams High. Her goal is to get her certified nursing assistant license so she could be a medical assistant in a doctor's office. She's also considering obtaining an LPN, qualifying her to work in a nursing home .
Like Eller, Monroe sings Mountain View's praises. And, she added, she'd definitely recommend it to other pregnant and parenting students so they, too, can receive "that one-on-one attention they need."