Margaret Hudson Promotes Education
By EMILY RAMSEY
RAISING AWARENESS: Genell Coleman, executive director of the Margaret Hudson Program, stands at the front desk of the program’s Broken Arrow location, 751 W. Knoxville St. Coleman entered her position in July 2014.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Genell Coleman, executive director of the Margaret Hudson Program, wants to see the program gain the recognition she believes that it strongly deserves.
The specialized school for pregnant and parenting students began in Tulsa in 1968, with its Broken Arrow location at 751 W. Knoxville St., opening in 1981.
“We are rendering a vital service,” says Coleman. “This is a population that needs to be educated.”
Coleman has spent 37 years in education. She has taught at Broken Arrow Public Schools’ South Intermediate and, most recently, served as assistant principal at Broken Arrow High School before joining Margaret Hudson in 2008 as principal of the Broken Arrow location. In July 2014, she became the program’s executive director.
With her new role, Coleman oversees the entire program and is eager to have the ability to reach students in both Broken Arrow and Tulsa, she says.
Coleman’s belief in the program and its benefits is clear.
“At graduation, when I see students go across the stage, I know that they would have possibly dropped out if this program wasn’t here,” she says. “I know the challenges they’ve gone through, so to help them achieve success in life, that’s my mission.”
One of Coleman’s major objectives is to help the community better understand the program’s importance and reminding students of the availability of this service, in case they are in need of it.
The program targets girls starting in sixth grade and up to 21 years old. Services include academic instruction, counseling, mentoring, childcare and family planning education.
Students who attend Margaret Hudson are not sent there; they willingly choose to come, which aids in creating a hospitable, comforting environment that encourages success, Coleman says.
“Students have many bonding opportunities with fellow students who are dealing with a similar experience.”
Their self-esteem often improves; they are not made to feel embarrassed about their situation or their needs during pregnancy.
Class sizes are kept small, with a maximum of 15 students, which provides teachers greater one-on-one opportunities with students, enabling students’ comfort levels to increase. That, in turn, often helps students “feel more comfortable sharing their needs,” says Coleman. “Teachers are also better able to recognize the needs of their students because they have a manageable number of students.”
By removing many of the barriers that exist in the traditional school setting for a pregnant teenager, “the student has the freedom to get an education without having to constantly deal with the issues surrounding them as a teenager having a child,” she says.
Counselors are on site to provide students with support and advocacy. Nurses with prenatal, OBGYN, and labor and delivery backgrounds are also on site as well as a office and representative.
“With all of these services, students don’t have to check out of school to go to their appointments, and that’s a large factor in keeping them from missing class and getting behind,” Coleman says.
The school even features an early childhood center for children ages two weeks to 24 months.
The center maintains three classrooms with a curriculum for each age group of children, and one teacher in each classroom must hold a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
“We have people in the community who call and want to bring their kids here, but they can’t because they’re not students,” says Coleman.
Core classes including a financial literacy course and electives are on site, taught by teachers from the school district that the Margaret Hudson school resides in: Tulsa and Broken Arrow Public Schools.
Those school districts hire and fund those teachers and provide all the resources for the classroom, such as books and technology.
Thanks to help from their respective school district partners, the program can also accommodate students who are in need of an (English language learner) program.
Students are also taught how to be a parent, what to expect during child labor and how to care for their newborn child.
Other programs focus on reducing the risk of subsequent pregnancies, through a partnership with the health department, and encouraging full family participation, through events held for the baby’s father and grandparents.
“Having all of these services under one roof really meets with our vision of empowering families for lifelong success,” says Coleman.
And the number of those realizing the value of the program is growing.
“We have students transfer here from all over: Jenks, Catoosa, Owasso, Bixby, Sand Springs and Haskell, for this program,” she says. “That speaks to the fact that this program is needed.”
Coleman would like to see the program grow with a more centrally-located building in Tulsa to provide easier access from other communities and eventually multiple sites in the community throughout Oklahoma and beyond.
“This is a program that is needed both state and nationwide,” she says. “These girls need our help; their babies are our future leaders.”
The program will hold its annual fundraiser Sweet Cravings March 28. All money raised will go toward the program’s operational budget.