Step 1 to Success for Youth– Graduate from High School

September 24, 2020
Graduate holding a diploma

By Elizabeth Darling, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth & Families

Within the Family Youth Services Bureau at HHS/ACF, our Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention programming works to teach “success sequencing” which reassures youth they have the power to achieve the most successful outcomes for their life and health. Success sequencing means these major life events should be undertaken in this order:

  1. Get a high school diploma;
  2. Get a full-time job;
  3. Get married before having children.

Although school closures, online learning, and the pandemic has created a lot of challenges for high school students, the benefits of an education and the greater likelihood of avoiding financial obstacles later in life are worth continuing their best efforts toward graduation.

While less than 50 percent of adolescent girls who have children earn Visit disclaimer page a high school diploma by age 22, 90 percent of their peers who do not have children graduate. Adolescent mothers are more likely Visit disclaimer page to live in poverty Visit disclaimer page and depend on public assistance, by disrupting young people’s goals, negatively affecting earning potential and future family finances.

Adolescent pregnancy also impacts the next generation. The children Visit disclaimer page of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and to drop out of high school, have more health problems, become incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.

On the other hand, completing high school has a wide array of benefits. An education has intrinsic benefits—where young people learn basic life skills, establish connections with teachers and the community, and develop a work ethic.

A diploma improves the chances of finding a job, earning more money, and staying employed Visit disclaimer page . 36 percent of available jobs require Visit disclaimer page a high school diploma. Graduates earn approximately $150 Visit disclaimer page more in wages per week, than their counterparts without a high school degree. This translates to almost $400,000 Visit disclaimer page more over their lifetime for graduating from high school than those who do not obtain a high school diploma.

The first step on success sequencing positions youth well for taking the next step to success: getting a full-time job!

For more information, check out the ACF Family Room blog for our introduction to Sexual Risk Avoidance Education and the Success Sequence for poverty prevention.