It’s a startling statistic: 52% of American Latina girls get pregnant in their teens; more than half of those in high school never graduate. Heather Ross’s short documentary Baby Mama High looks at this issue from the perspective of an Escondido, CA, teenager. It’s the last few weeks of high school for Yessenia, a soft-spoken senior with two small daughters and a boyfriend who’d rather she stay at home than go to school. Yessenia is forced to choose: stand up for herself and her daughters, or give in to expectation. Yessenia’s story in Baby Mama High sheds light on the culture of early motherhood in the Latino community, as well as universal themes of struggling to break free of the expectations of a partner, family, and community.
Baby Mama High is one of five short films that are part of the American Graduate public media initiative supported by Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. These films (which include Can’t Hold Me Back, I Really Want to Make It, Immigrant High, and Skipping Up) collectively showcase a diverse array of determined Latino adolescents, from Oakland to Detroit, New York to San Antonio, who have all struggled to overcome challenges — gang violence, drugs, poverty, young motherhood, and language barriers — as they keep their eyes on the prize: a high school diploma.
The American Graduate films are each available to watch for free online. We recommend each as appetizers before the two-part film The Graduates, which premieres on Independent Lens Monday, Oct 28, but they stand pretty well on their own, too. We’ll be promoting a separate short daily over the course of five days, so check back for the next installment.
Watch Baby Mama High:
Preparatoria de Madreas Solteras (Spanish version):
Next American Graduate short: Can’t Hold Me Back.