Don't watch 16 & Pregnant? I know I didn't. It just wasn't my thing, my demographic ... I'm not even expecting! That said, if you're anything like me (teaching, parenting or working with college-bound students) my plea herein is for a reconsideration of this show.
Full disclosure: I was approached by the producers of 16 & Pregnant in fall 2009 to possibly volunteer on a season of the show as their college coach. Full disclosure part two: my long-time day job at The Princeton Review as head of college content has me cranking out lots of books, online courses, web narratives and delivering a silly amount of speaking gigs across the U.S. with one goal in mind: to help our students earn admission to and be able to pay for the colleges that will truly be the best fit for them.
As much as I didn't suspect that 16 & Pregnant would play into our mission, I was wrong, as it so does. Here's how. 16 & Pregnant is the latest teaching tool used by students, parents and, in recent months, guidance counselors and high school heath education teachers as a non rose-colored view of the trials of teen pregnancy; in short, reality TV that has real consequences -- actually showing, not just telling.
16 & Pregnant allows a national audience of students, parents, guidance counselors, etc., to share in the very real issues that pregnant high schoolers deal with in school and at home. Even more immediate than that are the grown-up decisions that each of the young women on the show make on camera -- and how those decisions will affect their futures. It's those futures, specifically the educational aspect of them, for which I was asked to aid as a counselor/college advisor for one student on this season's show. That student's name is Ashley ... and she's awesome.
If you tuned into the Dec. 21st show, you'll see why I'm such an unyielding cheerleader of Ashley. I'll give ya a hint. Ashley is the only young woman from the show's entire three seasons who has moved on to be a full-time college student, living away from home. Not to spoil the 90 minutes of her show, but that's a really big deal, and one that will make even the most detached viewers sit up and take notice. Ashley not only deals with pregnancy, birth, and adoption issues, but with SAT prep, testing, her college search and a humbling financial aid experience. This is all stacked squarely on the shoulders of a young woman who was born when Bill Clinton was campaigning for his first presidential run.
I'm so proud to think that The Princeton Review was even a small help to Ashley in helping her to find and earn admission to her top college choice a long way from her suburban Dallas home. I think you'll be in as much awe as I was of Ashley's passion, direction and raw moxie while working with her and her supportive mom this year. Despite the knowledge that many young women deal directly with teen pregnancy, to see Ashley go through those months is experiential learning at its most laser sharp. A more inspirational 90 minutes would be difficult to match.
You can check out Ashley's site, too: http://ashleydsalazar.com/