I want young girls to know that they are not a product of their history or circumstances. My story is one of breaking cycles.
I come from a long line of women, mostly unwed and all uneducated, who have given birth in their teens. Both of my aunts, my stepmother, and my grandmother were teen mothers. When I say I broke the cycle, it was not for teen pregnancy, it was for getting an education. Even before my pregnancy, I knew education was the key to my future, but after having my daughter it became paramount. I returned to school at 19 and became a registered nurse at 23. I like to believe it is because my daughter grew up in a home where education was valued, that she in turn broke the teen mom cycle and chose to get her education before starting her family.
I was attending an alternative school when I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t there because I had problems in school. I was quite motivated actually. I was there because I had tried enrolling myself at my local public high school and was turned away. I did not have a parent to fill out the required forms. My home life was tumultuous: my mother had a substance abuse problem and was not physically or emotionally present.
During my pregnancy, those who were really there for me were my teachers. They were beyond special. They worked with many kids from broken and abusive homes and had a unique way of interacting with students. It’s been 32 years and I still remember them by name. Looking back now, it was as if they became my surrogate parents. Jerry Lucy was my history teacher. He welcomed me in his home as if I were family. I could talk to him about anything and everything and he always treated me as if I were an adult and capable. Jerry had a photographic memory and (it seemed to me) knew everything that was ever to be known about mankind. I never tired of his lectures and cannot count the endless hours he spent with students in group discussions after class. He opened my horizons and my mind; he inspired me to seek more knowledge. As a group, the teachers at San Andreas had faith in me when I had no inkling of what I was doing. At 15, when I asked about attending community college after class, they wholeheartedly encouraged me. Later, when I became pregnant, they even threw me a baby shower. Those teachers showed me love, kindness, and respect that I had never known before. For many years after high school, I returned and gave them updates on how we were doing. I was incredibly fortunate to have had them in my life. Some of them have since passed on, but not before making this world a better place.
My dreams for my daughter, Anika, have never wavered. I have always wished for her that she has passion in her life, for I believe that without passion we are dead: alive, but not truly living. It has mattered to me not what she does, but that she finds meaning and purpose to her days. I have always told her she could become an astrophysicist or live barefoot on a hippie commune, as long as it fulfills her. I will love and support her either way. Interestingly, she chose to become a high school teacher and I could not be more proud of her.