Alexus Barbee enjoys playing with the children in the Armstrong Child Care Lab. She enjoys one baby in particular- her own child, nine-month old Kamyla.
"She is very playful. She's a good child," said Barbee.
Barbee brings Kamyla to the lab everyday at Armstrong High School, where the 17-year-old senior is a student. The district recently opened the lab as part of its campaign to reduce the number of high school drop outs.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, close to 500 students dropped out of school for various reasons last school year in the city of Richmond. A little over 100 were from Armstrong, so the child care lab was designed to help bring that number down- especially among students who are now parents.
"We have a lot of children who don't finish school because they have no one to care for their children. It is designed to teach the mothers how to be better mothers and to also instill some skills in the children even at their young age," said lab teacher Wenonah Washington.
There are nine babies in the lab, and every day, they are taught lessons by three teachers - all while their parents are also being taught lessons just a few doors down.
"Their children are somewhere safe. They are being cared for and taught at the same time. They can actually focus on their studies so that they can attain their high school diploma," said Washington.
Barbee says she plans to head to Virginia State or Virginia Union next year to continue her dream of becoming an attorney. However, she says without this child care lab, her senior year would have been filled worry and her dreams possibly postponed.
"Every day I would wonder who would be able to watch my child. I don't want to drop out of school. I didn't want to get an abortion, so it would have been kind of hard and tough for me," said Barbee.
The lab not only provides support Armstrong High School students who are parents. It will soon help the college students at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. They will be able to work in the lab and earn certification in early childhood education.
Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.
WWBT-TV NBC 12
P.O. Box 12
On Your Side
Video and Pics