There's no tuition. It is now and has always been free to attend.
In fact, the school pays for bus tickets and cab rides to keep girls coming. Inside one classroom, there's none of the usual chatter. It holds parenting classes and doctor's appointments on site. There's a table of baby clothes by the door -- take what you need, give what you don't. Catherine Ferguson's in-house currency, CFA bucks, rewards punctuality, proper uniforms, great ideas or improved grades; students can use it to buy notebooks, pens, mascara, nail polish, even diapers -- by far the school store's most popular item.
Some of Andrews' plans have worked -- a four-day school week that gives girls time to manage their outside-of-school lives, the shift from semesters to quarters so a girl who gives birth won't fall so far behind.
Some failed, like starting the school day later in hopes of improving punctuality and a short foray into admitting young men.
Her choices are more intentional than instinctual now, she said, but the school is still evolving. It sometimes takes years to know whether something works.
Take her latest plan, which shifted the academy from a more traditional high school -- where students change class ever hour and take courses in English, math, science and the like -- to what's described as Big Picture Learning.
It calls for students to design their own curriculum and projects based on their interests and career possibilities and find related internships in the community.
With the new learning model, which Andrews borrowed from a nonprofit, no two students' school days look the same. In one classroom last month, students worked quietly at computers -- one researched graphic design, while another created a presentation about parenting, and still another filled out a job application. One girl studied a piece of sheet music from behind a keyboard.
Andrews said she implemented the new learning model in part because it works for students she sees more often -- girls who struggled in traditional schools or have gaping holes in their transcripts. Students are able to take more time on subjects they struggle with, while other students are able to graduate early. She said the new model formalizes elements her students were already learning from, such as internships.
She admits there were mistakes in the program's first year: The school needed more teacher training and buy-in. Students and parents needed a better orientation program. Cold calls weren't the best method for placing students in internships.
She says they've already started to address some issues and will do more in the coming school year. But for some students, it's already too late.
Students said some of their friends left out of frustration -- they weren't sure what was expected of them and didn't have enough guidance. Some students and teachers complained they missed group discussions and the familiarity of a traditional curriculum.
Andrews said the new curriculum wasn't a result of the school's 2011 shift from public to charter. Instead, it was designed to be able to help more girls in different stages of their education.
Teen moms don't tend to leave the academy when they're just a credit or two shy of graduation, or even when they're struggling academically, she said. Rather, it's in their first 30 days -- when a girl who just gave birth adjusts to late nights with a hungry infant, or when a girl who had dropped out returns to the benevolent tyranny of a school schedule.
If she can't see a clear path to graduation, if she's overwhelmed by a system that doesn't reflect how her life has changed, you lose her, Andrews says -- to the street, to a dead-end job, to just sitting at home.
Spark her passion and show her all the reasons she has to fight? She's yours.
"In other countries, we scream at people about throwing away girls, how they kill girl babies. Well, we kill girl babies, too, we just kill them slowly," Andrews says. "We take away opportunities for them to go to school, we don't provide opportunities for girls who have babies, and it is a slow death.
"Poverty is a slow, painful death."
'Don't hang your head'
In her first semester at Detroit's Communication and Media Arts High School, Darshea White liked math classes, JROTC and running cross-country, but she didn't have many friends. Her family had moved around a lot. She was a smart girl with not-so-nice clothes, she said: a magnet for bullies. She was petite and rail-thin -- they could tell just looking at her that she wouldn't fight back.
When she got pregnant her freshman year, she felt even more anxious and isolated; it seems crazy to her now, she said, but she really believed she was the only soon-to-be teen mom out there.
Her mother took her to Catherine Ferguson, where a security guard greeted her, chatted with them, asked Darshea's age. She was 14. Just saying so was her cue to feel ashamed.
"The first thing I did was hang my head low," said Darshea, now 16. "(The guard) told me 'Don't hang your head. Lift it up. There's a lot of people going through the same situation.'"
That moment in January 2012 was when she first fell for Catherine Ferguson Academy. She was quiet, there, too, but people were kind. Her classmates taught her what to expect as a student and parent. She liked Ms. Andrews, the teachers and the people who would care for her son. For the first time, school was a peaceful escape -- just going class to class, earning good grades and counting the credits toward graduation.
"I thought, 'I'm still going to regular school even though I'm a teen mom," she said.