At 16 years old, Megan McSherry was an enviable teen: a scholar-athlete at New Milford High School with a budding first love and an incandescent future.

Trustworthy and responsible, she was the kind of girl who never gave her parents, teachers or coaches a reason to worry. Her father, Tom, is a longtime New Milford Board of Education member.

Of course, teenage hormones don't discriminate based on grades or family background.

Six weeks after an unsupervised night of passion, Megan's seemingly idyllic romance was turned upside down by a plus sign on a white plastic strip.

"It was so scary initially," said Ms. McSherry, who is now 21 and the single mother of a 4-year-old son, Ethan.

She remembers "breaking down crying" with her boyfriend when they confirmed the pregnancy test results.

Ms. McSherry is far from the first teenager to get such news, although the statistics for teenage pregnancy are on the decline.

Nationally, the teen birth rate fell 55.1 percent from 1998 to 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, last year's teen birth figures were the lowest in 70 years across all racial and ethnic groups.

The loudest supporters of this downward trend are the young mothers who juggle responsibilities far less glamorous than those portrayed in television programs such as the MTV reality show, "Teen Mom."

Danbury High School junior Samantha Pena, 16, who gave birth to her son, Samir, in August, said teen motherhood is not something to emulate.

"Think twice," Ms. Pena said to those teens contemplating a sexual relationship.

For Ms. McSherry, the key to successful parenting is making your child -- and your child's future -- the priority.

"In my opinion, I'm a good mother," said Ms. McSherry, who describes her little boy as "my everything."

"I work 25 hours a week and go to college, and still have time for my son," she said.

Ms. McSherry is a senior at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. She boasts a 3.5 grade point average as an interactive marketing major with a minor in accounting.

This is not to say it's been a smooth road for her.

Ms. McSherry and her divorced father, Tom, say the road she now travels is one marked by disappointment and heartache.

Initially, Ms. McSherry confided in three friends at New Milford High. Soon after, she felt the breeze of whispers behind her back. The news of her pregnancy was out.

With a year until graduation, Ms. McSherry decided to transfer to the district's adult education program.

Her reasons were both practical -- she spent most mornings in the nurse's office with nausea -- and private. Ms. McSherry said she didn't want to be subjected to the stares and the gossip.

"They (the adult education faculty) were wonderful," she said.

Ms. McSherry graduated at the top of her class in August 2008, not long after Ethan's birth. Poignantly, Tom McSherry cradled his new grandson as she delivered the class address and collected her diploma.

For the next two years, Ms. McSherry and her then-boyfriend lived with the boyfriend's family, only to see their social life disappear and their relationship fray with the demands of being new parents.

Ms. McSherry and her boyfriend decided to break up, and she moved back home with her father. She and Ethan's father, who declined to be identified for this story, have a shared custody arrangement.

"She's one stubborn little girl," Tom McSherry said. "She has done extremely well in the handling of everything. The circumstances were unfortunate, but they (Ethan's parents) have come through maintaining a focus on Ethan and their futures."

Mr. McSherry says he was stunned -- even angry, at first -- but he quickly rallied in support of his daughter.

"You are my daughter. I love you," Mr. McSherry told her.

His advice to other parents: Teach your children to make good decisions, but pepper that advice with the assurance of unconditional love.

"I tell her anything is possible," Tom McSherry said, "and we'll figure it out."; 203-731-3332