Octavia Mosley benefited immensely from the Alachua County Continuing Education for Pregnant/Parenting Teens (ACCEPT) program.
ACCEPT provides an opportunity for pregnant and teen parents attending Alachua County public schools to continue their education while also benefiting from prenatal/postnatal health and parenting classes and child care.
“ACCEPT helped me and my child,” said Octavia Mosley, a former ACCEPT student who after two-years in the program graduated from Loften High School in 2014 at the age of 18. Determined to provide for her child, Mosley had a plan to further her education while also working to support her child. She got her first job at McDonald’s, while earning certified nursing assistant and phlebotomy certifications.
She works as a certified phlebotomist at the Alachua County Health Department and is pursuing a nursing degree at Santa Fe College.
“I’ll keep going until I get my master’s degree in nursing,” Mosley said.
ACCEPT is a voluntary program available to students who are 19 and under and whose pregnancy is verified by a health care provider.
Mosley said ACCEPT changed her life and made it possible for her to get her high school diploma while her child received the best child care at the Loften Child Care Center.
“ACCEPT means a lot to me. I was young with a child,” Mosley said. “This is a great program with great people who are supportive and help you. They took good care of my child while I was attending classes. They helped me get my life together. The whole school was a support system.”
Cheryl Allen, assistant principal at Loften and coordinator of the ACCEPT program, said Loften has graduated many teen moms who have their high school diploma, and like other students, was held to all the School Board requirements.
Allen said the graduates leave the school with a plan and knowledge of resources available to them.
“We work with them and our goal is for all our students to graduate,” Allen said. “Raising a child is not easy, home support is important.”
ACCEPT is available to any student in the Alachua County School District. To enroll in ACCEPT, students must complete an application at Professional Academies Magnet @ Loften High School at 3000 E. University Ave.
Allen encourages students looking to enroll in ACCEPT to call the school to speak to a counselor.
ACCEPT is a drop-out prevention program designed to help pregnant and teen parents continue their education while they also learn how to take care of their health, their baby’s health and acquire good parenting skills.
Allen said advantages of the ACCEPT program include free child care and excused absences for illnesses related to pregnancy and to the students’ children.
The Child Care Center is open from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Angela Davis Monroe, teacher in charge of the child care center, said care is provided to children from 2-weeks-old to 3-years-old. Children and teen moms are transported to and from Loften in a school bus equipped with child safety seats.
Monroe said teen parents are required to bring formula, diapers and age-appropriate food for their children. Eligible children at least 1-years-old are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program with some food modifications.
At the center, Monroe said children receive an educationally enriched program that includes music, reading, outdoor playground experiences and other age-appropriate activities.
Monroe said teen parents are encouraged to focus on academics, knowing their child is in a safe and nurturing environment.
Allen said ACCEPT students have the same opportunities as other students such as enrolling in magnet programs, dual enrollment with Santa Fe College, senior activities, field trips and other activities.
“ACCEPT students are exposed to the same experiences seniors have,” Allen said. “We talk about college and get them started on a plan.”
Monroe said the ACCEPT program at Loften has been in existence for 40 years, and she has been at the Child Care Center for 28 years. She said the Child Care Center is licensed by the Department of Children and Families and abides by all requirements like any other child care center in Alachua County. She said ACCEPT is a state-mandated program that complies with all the Alachua County School Board requirements and regulations.
She said the caregivers are highly qualified and must have 45 hours of childcare training, an associate degree, or 60 college credits or be certified as a paraprofessional.
Monroe said because of low enrollment the center may lose three of its four caregivers in 30 days if enrollment doesn’t increase. Monroe said the current staff of four caregivers allow for 18 children in the center.
Monroe said she would like to see the program expanded to care for the babies/toddlers of teachers and staff at Loften who would pay reasonable fees for child care. She said the Loften Child Care Center is licensed for 56 children.