Up Against All Odds
If you could start your life over what would you do differently?
If I could start life all over again, I would have been more adamant about getting into a school that would have provided me with academic rigor and staying active doing things that I loved, such as dancing and writing. I would not have given into societal influences that consequently led me down path of premature adult responsibilities. I would have listened to the advice of adults on having a child at the age of 16. If I could do it all again, I would have stuck to my plan of waiting until I was married to have children.
What was the leading cause of you dropping out of high school?
Initially, I did not drop out of high school. I was in the ninth grade at Eastern University Charter School in Philadelphia, PA. I had these two amazing teachers, Mr. Adin and Ms. Karla, were the driving motivation for me to stay at that school. In January of my freshman year, Mr. Adin was fired. I was bored due to not having work to do. I also found out I was pregnant. I would attend school on Wednesdays and Fridays. When my mother went to the school to find out why I did not have any grades and to see if there was anything that could be done to receive credit for, I told the principal that I was also pregnant. He asked me to not return to the school; however, he did not report that I was officially terminated from the school. I was out of school for my whole pregnancy, although my mother attempted to enroll me into cyber school.
When you found out you were pregnant at 15 what was your reaction? How did you break the news to your family and how did they react?
This is kind of a crazy story, ha. My daughter’s father was the one who actually knew I was pregnant before I did. One day we were arguing and he ended up telling my mother over the phone while she was at work. It was also the first time for me hearing it. I was in shock. I took an at home pregnancy test before my mother came home. It was positive. I was still in disbelief. My mother and his father were upset. But his mother was more excited about having her first grandchild.
How was your pregnancy? How did it feel to hold your baby girl for the very first time?
In all honesty, my pregnancy was ROUGH. I was severely depressed. I did not gain a lot of weight. I probably weighed about 128 lbs. I remember up until the day she was born not wanting her because the reality was: I knew I was too young to be a young single mom and I was not currently living in the most stable conditions. I thought about aborting her and even adoption or signing my rights over to her father. (One day I do plan on telling her this) Holding her, I cried. I actually thought she looked like the naked mole rat from Kim Possible, and was upset- I wasn’t ready. I had her the day before my 16th birthday...just simply amazed. In Shock but amazed.
What made you go back to school to get your GED and AA? Explain the duo program you attended?
After having my daughter in September, I knew that eventually I wanted to go back to school and finish. I have always loved school, but quickly frustrated when I was not challenged. I remember being in the hospital 3 months pregnant and my mom and aunt told “You might as well just get an abortion. He’s not going to be there and you’re going to spend your life chasing after him. You have a whole life to live.”
I went back because I was determined to prove them wrong. I had to show them that I was going to be better than them and a baby was not going to be my excuse to give up.
My grandmother sent me a web address and told me to call the program, Gateway to College at the Community College of Philadelphia. I promise it saved my life. Gateway to College is a scholarship based alternative program for students between the ages of 16-21, who have dropped out of traditional high, to receive their high school diploma while taking college classes and receiving college credits. Each college course taken equates to one high school credit. Because I did not receive any credits while in high school, when I completed Gateway to College I only had to complete one more semester of college courses to receive my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts Studies. I could not have done it without the support system I was gifted while in Gateway.
How was your transformation from leaving Philly and moving to NC to earn your BA in Psychology in only 2 years?
Hm, I was not going to go to college right away… I needed a break mentally, with everything I endured with being an active college student, young mom and having to deal with home issues. I felt mentally drained. I intended to finish Gateway and my Associates then take a year off. But a couple weeks after walking in the CCP graduation I lost my best friend to an overdose. I had to get out of Philadelphia because everywhere was a reminder of him. When I received confirmation that I was accepted into Bennett..I was determined to make it work. I could not be in Philly with all of those memories. North Carolina was a fresh start and one of the best decisions I have ever made. I found home. It was my first time living on my own, paying bills and fully adulting. I loved it. I had my daughter with me and we were flourishing down there. I was at peace and it was the happiest two years of my life.
I decided to finish Bennett in two years because mentally, I knew I was really burnt out. As much as I loved school and being in NC, I was over institutionalized learning.
Everyone calls me crazy because in my senior year, I decided to take 23 credits in the fall and spring semesters (46 credits in all) , held an appointed position on SGA as the Special Events Coordinator, participated in Psychology club, worked in the Financial Aid Office for work study and was still raising my daughter. But I would not have been able to do any of that without the help of my Bennett sisters and God. I never experienced such support in my life. I was even able to take her to class or some of the Belles took her to their class when needed. We just made it work. It was even easier because I was able to include her in a lot of SGA events because she was Little Miss Bennett. I was still an social student. I enjoyed the party life and being a college student. Time management, support and self care.
Describe the feeling of you crossing that stage with your daughter cheering you on.
Crossing that stage was huge for more reasons than one. It was great knowing she was in the crowd seeing me cross that stage because I did it. And even though she did not understand too much at that moment, when she gets older, she’ll understand that there is nothing too BIG that can stand in the way of her dreams. I cried before crossing the stage because I almost was not able to walk in graduation due to Registrar errors. But then the icing on the cake was when I was approved but my name was not in the Commencement Book under Magna Cum Laude Academic Honors, nor did I receive my cords. Her running up to me when the ceremony was over and wanting to take my graduation cap was her way of saying “I want to be like Mommy”.
How’s life after undergrad?
If I could do it all again, I would have stayed in college longer, taken up two or three more majors. Life after is all adulting. I’m still searching for the place to submit my Adult Resignation letter. I think the hardest challenge for me is accepting that I was only 20 years old when I graduated and being comfortable with not rushing to accomplish goals. Finding a job was tough being over qualified for some and under qualified for other. But I think I have found my place in the world for now. I am currently a Substitute for the Philadelphia School District.
What’s your ultimate goal?
I do enjoy teaching; however, my ultimate goal is to, one day, become a Sexologist with the focus in Sexual Reintegration in Trauma Patients. I also have a strong interest in working on and one day having my own non-profit that teaches the history of women of color as the primary goal of developing self- esteem in young women of color with hopes that it will be another avenue for primary prevention for human trafficking in women of color who are targeted. I developed this concept from doing research and finding out that traffickers target women with low self esteem and those who can be easily manipulated.
What is some advice you can leave our readers?
Advice? Hmmm, Take Your Time. There is no need to rush to accomplish goals.. Learn to Live In The Moment. Oh, the best advice I can give is: find you a great support system. Just like a flower, when nourished and shown love, it grows and develops into something beautiful. Support systems will not always be blood related and it is okay to create the family needed to help you grow. Never STOP chasing your dreams. In Everything that you do - Keep your end goal in mind, Be intentional and Be True to You.