LYFE program helps teen parents graduate high school in New York City

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A New York City Department of Education program provides free early childhood education to children of student parents, and it's making a big difference in the lives of the students, their children, and their parents.

"She motivated me to go to school, to get a job, to graduate," said Zeguri Jinkins, of her 19-month-old daughter.

Zeguri was just 17 when she had Sumara. She was overwhelmed but certain of one thing.

"I wanted to finish school," she said. "I didn't want to be a statistic."

A turning point came when Zeguri's guidance counselor told her about LYFE, a DOE program that provides early childhood education to kids of student parents.

Zeguri enrolled and was able to finish high school, and Sumara goes to a childcare center in the Bronx while her mother is at school.

"I'm now in Coop Tech, in June I graduate with a natural hair license," she said. "And I hope to start Hunter College in the fall of 2019."

The backbone of the operation is a team of certified teachers, licensed social workers, and alumni.

It's free for any mom or dad who is enrolled in a DOE program.

The kids range in age from 6 weeks to 3 years old.

"Our families want the best for their families and the point of our work is to ensure that happens," principal Kara Ahmed said.

Ahmed points out the program isn't just for students, but also for their families.

"It's been amazing, an amazing ride just being here," said Maria Olmeda-Jinkins, Sumara's grandmother. "The program has given us security, has helped us with education and put her in a really secure, loving environment."

A key part of this program is that students can remain in their schools. There are more than 30 centers in the city, so students can pick whichever one is convenient to their home or school.

In order to meet the needs of students, the hours vary, giving young parents like Zeguri a chance to soar.

"We're placing families on a path to success," Ahmed said.

For more information on the program visit:

* More New York City news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.