Educational Philosophy

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Cardinal Academy envisions a world where pregnant and parenting students up to age 21 are empowered to complete their high school education in a caring learning community, further their education and career paths, and become self-sustaining and contributing members of their community and local economy.

With our vision in mind, Cardinal Academy’s Educational Philosophy consists of three guiding principles: 

  1. Pregnant and parenting students should have the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and relevant educational experience that they have participated in creating and that prepares them for a prosperous future. 

Cardinal Academy will take a comprehensive approach of educating the whole person by providing students with a rigorous and relevant educational experience and providing on-campus wrap-around services necessary to support pregnant and parenting students staying in school. This will enable students to continue to pursue the completion of a high school education through graduation and beyond. 

  1. Pregnant and parenting students need basic essential support in order for learning to occur.

Young students that become pregnant need specialized support to develop skills and earn credentials critical to their success as adults and as parents. Providing essential support during this critical time can help to avoid a life of poverty and dependence on public or charitable assistance. Cardinal Academy’s educational plan leverages years of experience working with this at-risk population with a customized program meeting the individual needs of each student. Our philosophy centers around building a stable foundation where a student can continue to learn, develop a growth mindset, and take control of their future. 

Pregnant and parenting teens need a safe learning environment free of prejudice. The prejudice faced by pregnant and parenting students presents a great educational barrier. Cardinal Academy’s founding staff members, Emily Bergstrom and Deborah Hedden-Nicely, have more than 30 combined years of experience working with pregnant and parenting teens. Emily and Deborah have learned that most students chose to attend a specialized school like Cardinal Academy, to escape the stigma associated with being pregnant, or being a young parent, in a traditional high school. Teen parents are often judged harshly by their peers and sometimes by adults who do not understand their situation. This contributes to the high dropout rate for young parents. 

Louree Ortiz, a former teen parent said, 

“I was scared and alone when I found out at 15 years old that I was pregnant. So many people called me names and I lost my ‘friends.’ I tried to hide my pregnancy for so long, but people finally started staring. I went to a private school and all I got was whispers to the point I wasn’t going to school. I dropped out and my whole family was disappointed. I just cried everyday not knowing what to do. I then found out about this teen mom school. I felt so welcomed and all of the teen moms were so excited to talk to me and tell me their stories.” 

Pregnant and parenting teens must have basic needs met for successful learning. Cardinal Academy will remove barriers such as transportation, lack of resources for food, living, childcare, and stigma. Through collaborative community partnerships essential services will be provided on-campus, in a caring and nurturing environment, facilitating academic study focused on students achieving their highest academic potential.

Cardinal Academy’s most important partnership is with The Salvation Army, Boise Corps, who has served pregnant young women in Boise for almost 100 years. The Salvation Army will lease Cardinal Academy their new state-of-the-art school building. Additional student services provided by The Salvation Army include coordinating with the on-campus childcare, social work services, food services, food pantry, and operation of the student store.

According to a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation survey (2011), pregnant and parenting students expressed that they would have stayed in school if their school provided necessary services and programs designed to support teen parents. 

Cardinal Academy will provide: 

  • on-campus pre- and post-natal classes, 
  • child development and life skills classes, 
  • childcare and early learning opportunities for students’ child(ren), 
  • physical and mental healthcare, 
  • WIC and 
  • Head Start appointments, 
  • Student store, and
  • Food pantry. 

Pregnant and parenting teens need a stable and consistent environment. Cardinal Academy will provide a caring, trusting community for students to be each school day in a year round school year, which practices restorative methods of behavior change, and invests in teaching resilience and growth mindset. 

  1. Pregnant and parenting students will benefit from a values-driven school culture that empowers them to be life-long learners who are engaged in civic pursuits and contribute to their community.  

Cardinal Academy’s core values will be practiced by all students, faculty, staff, and collaborators of the school, throughout the campus and in our daily interactions.

Core Values

Learning. Cardinal Academy believes that learning is fundamental and leads to a multitude of opportunities for our students. Learning will empower and equip our students with the knowledge, skills, and critical thinking that will enable them to pursue a life of learning and apply that learning to gain prosperity and contribute to their community.

Empowering. Cardinal Academy believes that students will flourish in an environment focused on a growth mindset, resilience, hard work and perseverance. Students who are empowered with a growth mindset welcome challenges, persevere when tested, and see effort as a way to learn as a life-long pursuit. Empowerment focuses on a student’s ability to bounce back from challenges, possess courage and resolve, and instills confidence in pursuit of their high school education and transition into career or college.

Contributing. Cardinal Academy believes in inspiring community engagement and civic responsibility in our students, first by contributing to their school community. Through content courses, collaborating partnership opportunities, community service projects, mentorships, and internships, the teachers, mentors, and collaborating partners will lead by example and show students how contributing to their communities in a variety of ways, makes a better place for all to live.

Caring. Cardinal Academy believes that when students are recipients of a caring environment and atmosphere, they themselves will take on this perspective and care about others, their school, and community. In an article for the Journal of Online Learning Research, Karis K. Barnett of The University of Central Oklahoma stated there are numerous studies addressing what effects at-risk students and dropout rates (2016). “One such influence is the essential concept of caring…caring can be conveyed through active teacher/student relationships.” (Barnet, 2016)  When caring, understanding, and support is practiced together with learning, students are empowered and inspired to attend school, and learn and succeed. 

Community. Cardinal Academy believes in establishing a caring school community where students enjoy learning, which empowers them to complete their high school education and embark on a career or college experience leading to opportunities and choices for prosperity and economic and civic contribution.