Chalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.
Gayle Cosby is a Indianapolis Public Schools board member, a former IPS special education teacher and a doctoral student in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis graduate program in urban education studies.
I am a life-long Indianapolis resident, which means that I went to IPS starting in kindergarten and went completely through to the 12th grade. I was really fortunate to have really involved grandparents who thought that education was incredibly important.
I was living with my grandparents, but the summer between middle school and high school year, I was informed that I would be moving back in with my parents to live. It was totally against my wishes — it was not something that I wanted to do.
When I started at Broad Ripple High School in the ninth grade, home life was much different. There was a lot of instability. As a ninth grader at Broad Ripple, I kind of got in with a circle of friends that was not interested in attending class. We would just walk away from the school and go wherever it took us. It went on until I got picked up for truancy one day. It’s the only time I’ve been in the back of a police car.
I was at that time pregnant with my daughter Sierra.
My father came up to the school and informed the dean that I was pregnant. The dean said, ‘you can’t continue to go to Broad Ripple. There is a special school for pregnant girls over on Tech’s campus, and you are going to need to go there.’
I didn’t want to but I did transfer to (Arsenal Technical High School). Everyone there was in the same situation that I was in, so that made it incredibly easier to focus on my current situation and think about my future.
Sierra came in September of 1995. I was 15. I was very, very fortunate to be selected for a program called the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program. It was a home daycare exclusively for teen moms.
This was my typical day as a teen mom. You get up at probably around 4:30 a.m., get Sierra ready and get yourself ready. Because the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program sent a passenger van to your house to pick you and the baby up. They ran a route, picked up the rest of the girls and the babies and took us to the day care. Then they would feed us breakfast. (Then we) went out and caught the school bus to Tech. And then you do the reverse every day. That was my high school life.
(It was a) blessing in disguise — my daughter coming at the age of 15 is what kind of derailed me from the self-destructive path that I was on.