Overwhelmed, Sammatha Day said, she dropped out of high school in January halfway through her junior year because she was contending with a pregnancy and, later, with caring for her daughter.
But Sammatha, 17, of Lexington, now the mother of 5-month-old Bella Rose Zuniga, said it wasn't long before she began asking herself "how I was going to provide for my family."
Sammatha said she might have found the answer last week when she signed up for a new Urban County Government program called Path to Success, which guides high school dropouts ages 16 to 18 to jobs, college or the military, according to Mattie Morton, program administrator for the Division of Youth Services. Morton oversees the program.
On Monday, Quade Roberts, 16, of Lexington, signed up for the yearlong program, which provides one-on-one mentoring.
Quade dropped out of high school in November, when he was in 10th grade. He said he couldn't focus on his studies and his grades were bad.
But within two or three months, Quade said, reality hit: "I couldn't find a job. Nobody would hire me because I didn't have a high school education or a GED."
On Monday, when he went to the Urban County Government Youth Services offices on Versailles Road to begin the program, Quade had decided: "I want to get my education and go on to college."
Sammatha said she wants to get "a higher level of education, get my GED and go on to be a nurse."
Path to Success is funded by a federal grant that provides $1,550 per youth, said Morton.
It helps them get a General Educational Development certificate or alternative schooling, with work readiness and leadership skills and summer employment. Upon leaving the program, participants are expected to enter the work force or go on to higher education, Four teenagers have signed up for the program, which began in July. There were 36 spots left this week.
The program's goal, said Morton, is for more "kids to get their GED" certificates and to keep "more kids off the street, more kids successful."
Youth in the program attend weekly workshops, get tutoring, work experience, occupational skills training, college and career services, and meet with adult mentors. Sometime during the year, Quade and Sammatha will be able to work 20 hours a week at a job site, Morton said.
"They get you scholarships and find you a job," said Quade.
Youth in the program may earn up to $750 in a work program, up to $700 for reaching goals and $100 for committing to the one-on-one program, Morton said.
Each participant will receive the support, guidance and resources they need to succeed, Morton said.
Quade, Sammatha and the others also will participate in a competition to hone such skills as public speaking, decision-making, interview techniques and teamwork. They will get the opportunity to participate in a youth forum and the Mayor's Youth Council, according to Morton.
On his first day in the program, Quade underwent academic testing and worked to put together a résumé in which he was asked to list his skills.
Quade was hesitant. He wasn't sure he had skills that were worth putting on a résumé. But Morton reminded him that he was proficient in typing and in using a computer.
Quade is living with the family of teenage friend Bradley Barrett.
Melissa Barrett-Thomas, Bradley's mother, who brought Quade to the youth services program office on Monday, said, "Quade wants to do well."
But she said he doesn't know how to start on a better path. "This will give him the tools he needs to be successful," she said
If Quade does get his GED certificate, he'll go on tours of college campuses or, if he chooses, prepare for military service as part of the program, said Morton.
Quade said he wants to have a career in which he can use his computer skills.
"We'll do everything we can to help him get where he needs to be," Morton said. "It depends on what his goals are."
Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409.Twitter: @vhspears.