Teen parent talks human rights at SKHS-sponsored event

Kyla Sedgwick has a 2-year-old and a 4-month old. That’s enough to keep any parent busy — feeding them, caring for them, paying bills, working and living, but she’s also working toward her diploma at Discovery High School.

The situation involves more than a heavy work load — teen parents also face a lot of prejudice and scrutiny, she said.

The South Kitsap teen brought her story, among many others, to the 2008 Kitsap County Human Rights Youth Rally, at which South Kitsap School District students and teachers helped co-sponsor the event and even lead talks, such as Sedgwick’s on teen parenting.

For many people, Sedgwick said, becoming a parent means bringing a beautiful bouncing baby into the world. That’s what her dad thought when Sedgwick told her she was expecting a baby.

Her step-mom was a different story.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, you’re having a grandchild,’” she said. “It was like, ‘You’re a whore.’”

As a teen parent, it’s hard enough to work, go to school and raise a child without being looked down upon.

She said teen parents regularly struggle with people looking down on them as merely a teen who “slept around.”

“We have to go through a lot more things than older people,” she said, “because a lot of people look down on us. We’re people too.”

During her talk at the event, the almost all-female, teen-aged audience asked lots of questions about contraceptives — what works, what doesn’t and what are the side effects.

But Sedgwick’s talk focused on the human rights struggles of being a teen mom and warned that she used a condom when she became pregnant with her first child.

“If you’re having sex, you’re planning on having a kid,” Sedgwick warned.

But her story has a mostly happy ending, with two children she loves, who are themselves not merely consequences of what many see as a bad choice.

In addition to Sedgwick’s talk, students attended seminars on sexual harassment, an NAACP presentation on culture in Kitsap and a discussion from Darence Shine on the Freedom Writers, a group dramatized in a film of the same name starring Hillary Swank.

South Kitsap High School’s Builders of Unity Diversity Club planned many of the events, with help from SKHS teacher and club adviser Bev Painter.

For more information on the event and the Builders of Unity Diversity Club, contact paainter at 874-5665.

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