Rougher road

Girls who drop out of high school in Wyoming face greater challenges than boys

2013-07-18T06:00:00Z 2013-10-22T16:33:06Z Girls who drop out of high school in Wyoming face greater challenges than boysBy CAROL SEAVEY Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

In the 10 years since she dropped out of an Oregon high school, Tiffany Pruitt worked as a waitress, a bartender and exotic dancer, not to mention numerous jobs in fast food and retail.

"Without a GED or high school diploma, I couldn't get hired as a receptionist or do clerical work at doctor's office," she said.

The single mother of two doesn't always earn enough to provide for her children; she's been off and on government assistance programs throughout the years.

While Pruitt has found work, albeit often low-paying, other high school dropouts have difficulty getting employment in the first place.

Arica Wallace, 17, is studying for her GED at Casper College. She has applied for many jobs in fast food and retail, but rarely gets a call back.

"It's really hard to get a job when you're being compared to all these people who do have a high school degree or GED," she said.

Throughout the 2010-11 school year, 462 girls in grades nine through 12 dropped out of Wyoming high schools, compared to 589 boys.

Choosing to drop out of high school has a significantly greater negative impact on girls than it does on boys.

Nationwide, girls who drop out of high school experience higher unemployment, earn less money and are more likely to use social programs than their male counterparts, according to the National Law Center.



In general, Wyoming women often work in fields that are traditionally dominated by women, such as social work, nursing and teaching, according to "The Status of Wyoming's Working Women: 2011." In fact, about half of women who work in Wyoming are employed in fields such as health care, education and leisure. These fields tend to pay less than those traditionally held by men, such as mining.

Overall, women in Wyoming make 65.5 cents for every dollar a man makes -- the worst gender wage gap in the nation.

The gap is even larger for women who don't have a high school diploma.

In Wyoming, the wage gap between male and female high school dropouts was 60 percent in 2012, up from 51 percent in 2011, according to Catherine Connolly, professor of gender and women's studies at the University of Wyoming and author of "The Status of Wyoming's Working Women: 2011." Women without high school degrees can expect to earn at least $10,000 less than their male counterparts, she said.

Women who drop out of high school also face more unemployment than their male counterparts. Nationwide, only 53 percent of female high school dropouts were employed in 2006, while 77 percent of their male peers were employed, according to the National Women's Law Center.



For women, more education is the fastest road to better wages.

"Education is a key factor for women in Wyoming, even more so than it is for men," Connolly said.

Nationwide, the average woman has to have some college education in order to surpass the earnings of male high school dropouts, according to the National Law Center. The average male high school dropout earns $24,689 while the average female with some college education earns $26,513.

The gender-wage gap is greatest among high school dropouts. Women can expect to earn wages closer to those of their male counterparts with each educational milestone they pass. Yet, it's not until women complete the highest degrees that the gender wage gap starts to close.

Pruitt, the woman who worked all the odd jobs, earned her GED after moving to Casper two years ago.

"I wanted to further my education and actually have a career for my family," she said.

She hopes to take 10-week dental assistant course at Casper College in January. The free training is offered to parents who earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. It's funded by a federal Education and Training for Self-sufficiency grant, the Wyoming Workforce Development Center and Casper College. The program will be offered for the fourth year, if the grant is approved.


Female dropouts

While girls drop out of high school for many of the same reasons as boys, family responsibilities have a greater impact on their decision to leave school.

National reports show that 30 to 50 percent of female high school dropouts indicate pregnancy or parenting responsibilities as their primary reason for dropping out.

Boys, on the other hand, are less likely to drop out due to parenting responsibilities. A Gates Foundation survey showed that parenting played a role in 33 percent of female dropouts and 19 percent of male dropouts, according to the National Law Institute.

According to the Wyoming Department of Health, 622 teens in the state ages 15 to 19 gave birth in 2011. Eighty percent of them used Medicaid as their primary source of payment. Data on how many of those teen moms were in high school at the time and how many dropped out is not available.

Heidi Richins, a family and consumer science instructor at Sheridan High School, has run a program called "Parenteen" to help teen parents get their high school diplomas for 20 years. An average of 10 students participate in the program each year, the majority of whom are girls.

Oftentimes, the fathers are older and already out of high school, Richins said. Even for those who are in high school, the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities tends to fall on the mothers.

"Very few of the fathers become custodial parents, so it becomes a significant responsibility to the young ladies," Richins said.

Balancing work, school and child-rearing responsibilities is the greatest challenge to teen parents, she added. School may be the first to go when students can no longer keep up.

Girls who get married during high school are also more likely to drop out than their male counterparts.

Jan Torres quit high school in Rock Springs when she got married at the age of 16.

"I was in love, and in those days you didn't go to high school if you were married," said Torres, who is now 65.

She worked menial jobs, and once took a receptionist position even though she didn't know how to type. She went back to work after her boss left each evening to finish typing using her index fingers.

She got her GED a couple of years later. When she started working at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, she took college classes. Today, she is head of the psychology department there and specializes in adolescent psychology.

These days, only a handful of Wyomingites get married under age 18. In Natrona County, five marriage licenses were given to teens ages 16 to 17 in the last year, said Tracy Good, chief deputy county clerk. She hasn't seen requests for court consent in years.

For those that do get married while in high school, girls are much less likely to finish school than boys.

"If high school girls gets married, about 11 percent of them complete their education," Torres said. "If a boy gets married, about 60 percent will do it."

Carol Seavey is special sections editor at the Casper Star-Tribune. Contact her at 307-266-0544 or Follow her on twitter at Carol_Seavey.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. TruckinMomma
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    TruckinMomma - July 22, 2013 11:17 pm
    What? Have you read this article Sage52. You must have gotten poor grades in reading while you were in school, because your comprehension is way off. Where was there any whining or sniveling in this article. So she has received a bit of assistance while raising her two children by herself without any child support. Isn't that why welfare exists, so we don't have starving children squallered in the streets living in very poor conditions. That's third world country stuff. Here in America we should care for the children if their parent is struggling to bring in enough money to make it through the month. I'd rather my tax money go toward that than toward these government agencies that abuse our tax money by having extravagant conventions or using it to hook up with call girls and throw it away with stupid government bull. I salute all single mothers out there raising the future stewards of this country. Its sometimes a thankless job and too many times you are branded as a bad person simply because the dad gets away with not paying child support and have to get help with paying all the doctor bills. And I bet everyday Tiffany looks at her kids, she sees no "wrong choices". Just the two children she loves and adores and would do anything for. Good job Tiffany, putting yourself out there and serving as an example to other young woman. Way to go!!!!!
  2. TruckinMomma
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    TruckinMomma - July 22, 2013 10:58 pm
    I applaud Tiffany for being there for her children and working so hard to keep food on the table, sometimes holding 2 or more jobs to keep going from month to month. To all single moms out there, we are the only ones who truly know what it is like to make ends meet. To Jeffrey, sorry you are such a hateful person. Obviously you have some unresolved issues of your own you are bringing into this blog because your comment has nothing to do with Tiffany putting herself out there to help serve as an example to those young women who may be contemplating dropping out. Thank you Tiffany! Goes to show what a thoughtful person you are to publicly give a reality check to young girls that think freedom from school might seem like a good idea. I also applaud you for never giving up and even after 10 years did what you needed to do to get you GED! This now gives you the opportunity to get out of that rut that dropping out of school caused you. I think instead of judging this young woman, we should be encouraging her to continue striving to better herself and reach the goal of becoming a Dental Hygienist. Your son must be very proud of you. He, more than anyone, knows first hand how hard you work to make it day to day. You now don't have to settle for low paying jobs anymore. Congratulations on not giving up and getting your GED. Way to go Lady! What a great example for your children and our children out in the community. You have done this community a service and we should all be thanking you, not judging you. Its all about paying it forward and being decent human beings to each other. There is enough hate and discontent in the world; I apologize to you Tiffany, for Jeffrey's ridiculous comment that has nothing to do with what this article is about.
  3. sweetkathy
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    sweetkathy - July 22, 2013 11:12 am
    Well you mush be one of those daddy's or you know them. Why do you think that she is not taking responsibility, for her action. She has been raising them by her self. You must not know the tax laws like I do and NO she does not get it all back and then some. So you must be one of those that believes that young girls should not stay in school. Because that is the issue at hand education. Why do you hate, is it because you think girls are dumb and should stay that way. I think young girls given a chance to an education with out prejudices could run this country a lot better than men have so far. It's just my opinion HarlyD. So lets stop the hate and educate.
  4. HarlyD
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    HarlyD - July 18, 2013 4:22 pm
    Why is it everytime someone says anything about mommys with multible baby daddys it's always the daddys fault. I guess the Mommys don't have to accept responsibilty for thier own actions. And she may pay taxes but an FYI sweetkathy she gets it all back and then some. Ya wanna make any bets on that.
  5. sweetkathy
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    sweetkathy - July 18, 2013 2:17 pm
    Why do you judge when you know nothing. this is about education not tattoos, or your tax money. she pays taxes too and always have. On the children with different names, Have you ever heard of a man whispering sweet things to get what they want then run when there is responsibility at hand. how about the question where were the dads, and why did she have to struggle so. Why is it the when someone steps up to help educate and to tell there story that others have to judge with such hate in there hearts. I am for one proud that she has spoken out and maybe with this story keep a young girl in school.
  6. sweetkathy
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    sweetkathy - July 18, 2013 2:10 pm
    you are so wrong sir. and if you know anything about the lord your comment just shows how untrusted you are. It never said how long she was on assistants and that is not the issue of the article. The issue of the article is to try and educate young girls on the importance of staying in school. And that you can make a better life for your self through all of the struggles you go through and that there are others that understand and have compassion for others and there situations.
  7. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey - July 18, 2013 11:47 am
    Praise the Lord!
  8. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey - July 18, 2013 11:47 am
    They always seem to have money for tatoos. Just another example of how my tax money is ised....
  9. bk82
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    bk82 - July 18, 2013 11:42 am
    You ARE absolutely right, GoPokes23!! This story IS clearly about the importance of education and the outcome of not finishing high school. She isn't whining about the choices she made in the past she is simply telling a SMALL side of what can happen to you if you DO choose to drop out of high school. This article isn't "condoning this BS", it's simply put out there with the hope of educating young girls about the consequences of dropping out. I think this young mother of 2, is being an OUTSTANDING roll model for her children in overcoming the obstacles she faced and making sure her children DO NOT follow in her footsteps by instilling and pushing the GREAT importance of education!! No one truly knows this girls life story or ALL of her "choices", but yet they JUDGE her from a small article in a local newspaper.... CLEARLY judgment and ignorance are one in the same.
  10. wyorock
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    wyorock - July 18, 2013 10:43 am
    You're absolutely right. Go Tiffany!
  11. rigrat
    Report Abuse
    rigrat - July 18, 2013 10:26 am
    I tend to agree somewhat with Sage52 as the explosion of single mothers in this country has gotten out of control,yet so many condone this BS.
  12. GoPokes23
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    GoPokes23 - July 18, 2013 9:14 am
    This story is clearly about the importance of education, especially graduating high school. It didn't appear that she was whining or sniveling, rather showing the importance of having a high school diploma in regard to gaining meaningful employment. But read what ever you want into the article. It's clearly your respective worlds that we are all living in.
  13. MaleMatters
    Report Abuse
    MaleMatters - July 18, 2013 8:07 am
    Here's just one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.”

    See why women do this in: "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at

    Re: "These fields tend to pay less than those traditionally held by men, such as mining."

    These fields also tend to injure less and take fewer lives than those traditionally held by men, such as mining.

    If the sexes were reversed in all jobs, your story would be about women's higher job-related death-and-injury rate. Your sexism astounds.
  14. Sage52
    Report Abuse
    Sage52 - July 18, 2013 7:51 am
    BULL,all people have choices,just because YOU make the wrong choices is no reason to whine,snivel and leach off the taxpayers,in any state.
  15. wyorock
    Report Abuse
    wyorock - July 18, 2013 7:48 am
    Wow, doesn't always earn enough to provide for her children. But did earn enough money to get at least 3 tattoos. Both of her children have different last names, as does she. But lets give her some of my taxpayer money .
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