Born in Portland, my little sister and I were raised by our mother. My mom had me at 18 and my sister at 21. Our father was not involved in our lives, despite our mother’s pleading. We rarely saw him and he did not pay child support. My mother’s parents disowned her when they discovered she was pregnant by a black man. My sister and I were raised with our mother being our only family, although we often saw my mother’s two sisters. I clearly remember growing up with the double sense of rejection, from my father and from my mother’s parents.
My mom always worked, and worked very hard. She was always employed full time, kept our apartment immaculately clean, and cooked for us every night. She made just enough money that our family did not qualify for public assistance; we were very low income. Every cent went to bills. We were never homeless and my mom was very good at managing the little money we had, but we often did not have enough food and mainly relied on ramen noodles. I did not know that we were poor; my sister and I had our mother’s love and devotion and were well taken care of. We had friends and fun. Our mom often took us to the library and to parks. I began reading at four years old and I think my little sister was four when she began to read, as well.
As a child, I was quiet and dreamy. Some may have called me shy, but I think I was just an insecure kid. It was very important to me, to a fault, that people liked me. I wasn’t popular but everyone knew and liked me; I didn’t have enemies. I started my period two weeks after my 10th birthday, (June 19th). I was devastated. Nobody else I knew had her period; also, it was summer and I couldn’t go swimming.
I became pregnant the summer after my freshman year of high school. For whatever reason I did not think it was a big deal. As a 15 year old, I thought being pregnant made me an adult. I had no idea of the kind of life I was setting into motion.
Being pregnant in high school was very awkward. People felt sorry for me and expected me to fail or drop out. I don’t think my school or teachers had high expectations for me academically. I was looked at as “that girl that you don’t want to be like.” During my pregnancy in high school and then while I was in college, my mother was an amazing help to me. She went above and beyond a mother and grandmother’s duty in all she did.
My friends were very supportive and were always there for me; in fact, they are still my best friends today. My best friend, Sarah, was extremely helpful and supportive. She helped me with my son like he was her blood and I am forever grateful. At such a young age I had huge responsibilities; I was raising a baby, going to school, and working. My son’s father did not help me at all, but Sarah basically lived at my house. She helped me with my son while I worked and studied. To this day we are still best friends, and I always thank her for supporting me when nobody else did.
I was involved in a couple of teen parent programs: one through my school and one called Insights Teen Parent Program. They were very helpful as advocates and with navigating systems.
I decided to remain on my course of studies. I graduated high school with honors and was accepted into each of the Oregon colleges to which I applied. I earned a full ride scholarship to Portland State University and that is where I went for my undergraduate degree. I went on to receive my master’s in business.
Now, my oldest son Jeremy is 21 and Justin is 19. My youngest son, Jose Sebastian, is 18 months old and I have a four-year-old grandson named Justin Jr. I have been married for three years and have worked in higher education administration since 2004.