When Asuzena Gutierrez found out she was pregnant at 16 she said she didn't have too much support. She felt she was being pushed to leave her high school and eventually she did.

After she had her daughter, who is now two years old, she spent a year outside of school just taking care of her when it suddenly snapped.

"I was like, my daughter is going to need someone to look up to," Gutierrez said. "And it would have to be me."

Stories such as Gutierrez's are a common occurrence at Florence Crittenton, a school with a mission to helps teen moms complete their high school education.

This year they have 126 of students enrolled who are both expecting mothers and young moms.

"Our mission is of course to educate and prepare and encourage teen moms to be productive members of the community," said Principal Shirley Algiene.

Florence Crittenton began as a home for unwed mothers in the mid 1800s, said Felix Ortiz spokesman for the school. The need to provide a home for these women began to fall, as the use of contraception became more available, and by 1984 Florence Crittenton became an official high school of the Denver Public School system. 

"We follow the Denver Public Schools curriculum," Algiene said. "We have the same standards of English, math, social studies, science and we also offer electives."


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In addition to the standard curriculum, the school offers classes in parenting and has an entire center for family engagement to help create a healthy environment for teen moms and their families. Moms who already had their child can leave them at the early childhood development center, where they are taken care of and taught to read and write at an early age, said Ortiz.

"I decided to come because they have a day care and I wouldn't have to worry about dropping my daughter off and then coming to school," Gutierrez said who is now 19. "It's like a regular school just for little kids."

Though experts agree that there are a variety of reasons for teen pregnancy, the numbers show it is more common among certain communities.  At Florence Crittenton 83 percent of the students are Hispanic, or 105 students, according to the numbers released by the school on Monday for their official 'count day.'.
This number is a reflection of the neighborhood the school serves and the population of the Denver Public School system, that is 58 percent Hispanic, said Algiene. However it also reflects a nationwide trend where Latinas lead the rates of teen pregnancies.

A report released in April by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that in 2010, Hispanics had a birth rate of 55.7 births rates per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. Though this is a 12 percent decrease from 2007, and the lowest rate reported, Hispanic teenagers were still the community with the highest rate of teen pregnancies followed by non-Hispanic blacks with 51.5 birth rates per 1,000 women.

Lorena Garcia, executive director of Colorado Organization Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said the numbers at Florence Crittenton mirror society in the sense that most Latinos live in urban areas and tend to be the largest group in schools with the least amount of resources.

"The fact that we don't have a mandated comprehensive sexual education policy allows schools to not teach comprehensive sex education," Garcia said.

Garcia said one of the best ways to reduce teen pregnancy among Latinas is to teach parents how to talk to their kids about being sexually active and the development of sexuality, something that culturally has been difficult in the Hispanic community.

"We, COLOR specifically, when we meet with our parents and they tell us why they don't talk to their kids about sex it is because they don't know how," Garcia said.

In the case of girls like Gutierrez who already have gone through teen pregnancy there is still hope for success. Helping them succeed can help avoid their own children from becoming teen parents, Ortiz said.

"The impact of a teen mother without an education is devastating," Ortiz said. "The consequences of not having an education are most teen moms live in poverty."

By providing education to teen moms, Ortiz said, the school can create cycles of success so both mother and child can have a bright future.

"We've seen a lot of studies that have show that teen pregnancy overall has been in decline nationwide," Ortiz said. "That is great because we would love to be put out of business."

In the mean time Gutierrez, who works and goes to school is sticking to her plan and hopes to graduate in 2014. From there on she wants to become an ultrasound technician.

"I'm getting my life straight," she said. "Better late than never."