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      Teen parents successful because of Harlingen day care program

      Harlingen School District Program Directors of The Teen Parenting and Garden Day Care said the number of teen pregnancies in the school district increases by 10 to 15 each year.

      They said their program does not encourage pre-marital sex, instead, they are trying to make productive citizens by ensuring teen parents get an education.

      Mara Padilla was one of the students that benefited from the program.

      Her son Christopher is two years old " she was just 15 years old when she found out she was pregnant with him.

      "I was scared when I found out I was pregnant, Padilla said. I didn't tell my mom for three months."

      Padilla was a freshman at Harlingen High School. She said had it not been for the teen parenting program and day care, she would've dropped out.

      "I TMve been in the program for 4 years, since my freshman year, and it's helped me out a lot, a lot, a lot," Padilla said.

      Padilla, now 19 years old, is a biology student at Texas State Technical College.

      Program Coordinator Brenda Saenz said students like Padilla make it all worthwhile.

      "We're not here to put-up a road block, Padilla said. We're here to offer them services so they can graduate, and we are dedicated to our students' success. Without this program, maybe a lot of students might not have options."

      Amanda Gonzalez agrees.

      She was a 16-year-old junior at Harlingen High School when she got pregnant with her daughter.

      She adds that its programs like the teen parenting and day care that encourage teen mothers to stay in school and avoid becoming a statistic.

      "Just because we're teen parents " teen moms, teen dads - doesn TMt mean we're not going to become something in the world, an emotional Gonzalez said. I want to be a dental assistant - I TMm going to be a dental assistant. (It TMs) because of the tax-payers and everyone who pays (for the center), the state - it's because of them (that I have the chance to purse an education).

      The program accepts both teen mothers and fathers on a first come first serve basis.

      There are currently 29 children enrolled in the day care.

      Directors also said the program is not a free pass.

      The teens pay a dollar a day for the day care services, must have good grades, attend parenting classes, and must stay on a path towards graduation, to stay in the program.