by Laurel

 Life is a series of paths -- choose the right one and happiness
follows; choose the wrong one and misery follows.  Because we are
human, we all make mistakes that cause us regret as we grow up.  Some
of us choose the wrong career and find ourselves frustrated in a
dead-end job.  Some of us choose the wrong mate and find ourselves in
a living hell "until death do us part," if you believe your wedding
vows.  And then some girls find themselves saddled with a child before
they have had an opportunity to decide what they wanted to do with the
rest of their lives.  They may have forsaken their schooling because
of their pregnancy, and they are forever labeled an "unwed mother" if,
for whatever reason, they did not marry the child's father.  Those who
believe in the sanctity of life and opt not to have an abortion and
those who plan to keep their child have some tough decisions to make
regarding their future.  The path chosen may become even more
complicated, and the implications of each decision can be
far-reaching.  But one thought to keep in mind, though, is that "today
is the first day of the rest of your life," and the most important
thing you can do for yourself and your child is to go back to school
to complete your education.

 The television ad most often associated with young Negro children
teaches us "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."  These children are
encouraged to stay in school and to learn.  With the added
responsibility of raising a child, the unwed mother should take this
message to heart.  Without an education and a diploma, her prospects
could be bleak, and the cycle of poverty and ignorance may follow.
This heritage could be passed on to her children, and to her
children's children.  With no skills, the young mother will be doomed
to a life filled with struggle and grief.

 America is teeming with thousands of young, unmarried girls who
have children without benefit of support from the fathers of these
children.  In most cases, they have no choice but to go on welfare in
order to support themselves and to obtain medical care.  Once locked
into this cycle of poverty, the chances are against their breaking out
-- unless the girls make an effort to change their situation.  Society
has recognized the need to help these young girls and many programs
are now being offered to help put them back into school.

 We tend to be our own worst enemies, though, and many times we
find ourselves sabotaging our own best interests.  The results are
seen in those countless pregnancies to young unmarried girls, either
through accident or ignorance.  The impetus for change should come
from the girls themselves, as the prospect of living in poverty is not
very appealing.  The opportunity to complete one's education and
obtain a well paid job in order to provide a decent life for the child
should be the driving force in making this decision.

 When we say "today is the first day of the rest of your life" we
mean that your future is in your hands and you can make the most of
it.  You can never forget your past mistakes, but you can learn from
them.  So, begin today to make the change -- for the better -- and
help yourself and your child by returning to school.  Every person is
precious, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste.