Live Blog

03.10.12

Asenath Andrews: Take Away Shoes and Give Girls Wings

By starting a school for pregnant teens, the Detroit principal is offering young women a chance at success.
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Marc Bryan-Brown

Every year, more than 4,000 teen girls in Detroit get pregnant, and most of them don't graduate from high school. But one woman is breaking the chain. Asenath Andrews, the third Mother of Invention at this year's summit, is the principal and founder of the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a school where young mothers not only graduate, but they flourish, as NPR's Renee Montagne told the morning’s attendees.

“It is surprising that in 2012, there is an attitude that once you get pregnant as a teenager, your life is over,” Andrews said. “That is not okay. If you come to our school, we expect you to not just sit there, but to do your best. You create a future for yourself. Nobody can hold you back except for you. It’s our job to take away their shoes and give them wings.”

Asked to name one word to describe the school, one of its students, Ashley Rodgers, said, “everything.” “Because Catherine Ferguson meant everything to me,” she said. “The school was like a second home. Catherine Ferguson saved my life.”

The school not only boasts high rates of graduation and college enrollment, but also a working farm. But Andrews wants to do more. “I would like to leave the legacy that not only must you graduate, you must have an international experience,” she said. “I would beg borrow and steal to make that happen.”

She might not have to. Following the panel, it was announced that each of the event’s Mothers of Invention were receiving $50,000 grants from Toyota.

Read Jesse Ellison's 2011 article on the academy.