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Kenmare High School students become weekend parents

Thanks to the wonders of technology, five Kenmare High School students know what it’s like to be teenage parents.

10/24/17 (Tue)

Thanks to the wonders of technology, five Kenmare High School students know what it’s like to be teenage parents.

The Missouri River Area Career and Technical Center, on the campus of Bismarck State College, dispatched five “newborn babies” Marissa Jensen, Emma Condit, Ashlan Garcia, Kiely Mogren and Kylee St. Croix to take care of for a weekend.

The assignment was “eye opening” homework in the online parenting class the students are attending this semester.

These weren’t flour sacks or dolls, they were 7-pound babies with numerous electronic monitors to give the students real world experience in child care. They even came with child seats, bottles and clothing.

Jensen and Mogren got boys and the rest had girls.

Condit said the package basically had everything you would need to take care of a newborn for several days.

“There were outfits, diapers, a bottle, a blanket and they had sensors,” Condit said. “There was a sensor in the bottle too.”

Jensen explained that she and the other students wore a bracelet that when placed up to the baby’s chest, would stop crying, that is, if the student knew why the child was crying.

Christie Condit, who oversees online courses at Kenmare High School, said the students had 2 minutes to figure out why the baby was crying or screaming.

“We had to figure it out or lose points,” Emma Condit said. “We were graded.”

It may have been a messy diaper, maybe the baby was hungry, maybe the “parent” wasn’t holding the neck properly, or it could have been that the child just wanted to be held.

Whatever the reason, the students didn’t have an owner’s manual for these 2 1/2 days. It was up to them to deal with the situation in a timely manner.

According to Jensen, it was “kind of stressful.” Condit said, “I love mine.” Garcia called the assignment “sleep depriving. You wake up very early in the morning, you’re up 30 minutes, then you’re up an hour later.” Mogren and St. Croix weren’t immediately available for comment.

Christie Condit said the babies were programmed to be more stressful on the first overnight. It eased up a bit on Saturday and Sunday, but they still mimicked newborn babies.

“The students should have been up more on Friday night,” she said. “It’s a great class to give them a taste of what a real baby is like and the time it takes.”

The students said they didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. They knew they were getting the babies, but had no idea the child would be waking them up for a feeding in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

In fact, Christie Condit took the students to the MRACTC for a couple of seminars before they were allowed to get the babies.

“We practiced feeding and burping and more but when we got the baby we didn’t know,” Jensen said. “It cried or screamed but when it chimed, you knew you were caring for it properly.”

The students were required to take their newborns with them when going  out as well. Some of them went out for pizza and got some looks, they said.

They couldn’t leave their baby in the car seat either as the programming sensed that as well.

For Jensen, who was working concessions at a vendor show, people kept looking at her and some asked if it was a real baby.

“I got protective,” she said. “I was careful who I trusted to hold him. I was getting into it.”

Only one of the five has younger siblings, thus has experience with babies or young children.

For Garcia, who said he has never been around a baby, stayed with the baby all weekend and admitted he was nervous.

“I sat with the baby and tended to her and that was better,” he said.

Not only did this assignment teach the students about caring for a newborn, it taught them a much bigger lesson and that is of the time commitment. The students believe their world would be turned upside down if they had a child while in high school.

“It would have been hard,” Jensen said. “There wouldn’t be any time to participate in sports.”

Condit saw it a little differently, but still with the same conclusion.

“I really enjoyed it. It was fun,” she said. “But I definitely know I don’t need a baby now. It was good experience.”

They also described that despite this being a homework assignment, the higher priority was in caring for the child.

According to Condit, the better they took care of the baby, the more points received for the assignment, thus the grade became a residual bonus for them.

“You’re not thinking about a grade at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Condit said.

Christie Condit said her students really took the assignment seriously and is a credit to their sense of responsibility.

Regardless of what the circumstance may have been; rocking the baby in a carriage, changing a diaper, having to pull over while driving to figure out why the baby is crying; were all things the students embraced for those 2 1/2 days.

Emma Condit and Jensen say they would certainly recommend this class to other students. Garcia no, because a lot of high school students aren’t ready for that 24/7 commitment.

“Last year I was in counseling and I was told if I took parenting I’d get a baby so I signed up,” Condit said. “It’s been interesting.”

For Jensen, who wants to work with children someday, it was the power of knowledge.

“This is something you need in the future,” she said. “It taught me a lot.”

Also this semester, the students are studying genetic disorders, adoption, babysitting, choosing the proper day care, school laws, what it costs to raise a child, childhood development, speech and SIDS.

According to Christie Condit, teachers, students and the administration see this as invaluable.

“Everyone was curious,” she said. “We’ll probably get more to enroll in the future.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!