Walking across the stage last September to accept my diploma was the 2nd happiest day in my life. The first being the day my daughter was born J Few people truly understand the struggle it was to complete my education, work full-time, and be the best parent I could be – alone. Prior to having my daughter at 19 I had completed a year of college, but was convinced it wasn’t for me and waited until my daughter was around a 1½ before returning back to school. Sacrifice doesn’t even begin to explain it. When I first re-enrolled my life was a mess, I was living in an illegal apartment, and then I moved over two hours away. I woke up at 5am with my young daughter and commuted over two hours each morning and afternoon with her to fulfill my responsibilities at work and school. Many mornings she cried the whole train ride. Many mornings I cried along with her. But, I was not meant to break, I was meant to succeed. So I stuck with it, often with no support, and never once did I think I would actually make it to graduation day.
So when I was approached by my friend Natasha from STEPPS Boston about hosting one of their weekly Twitter chats on pursuing an education while parenting young, I was nervous! STEPPS (Summit for Teen Empowerment, Progress, and Parenting Success) is a phenomenal organization in Boston working with teen parents with the goal of increasing the communication between young parents and the organizations and agencies that serve them. Reflecting back on my challenging education road, I didn’t think there was much I could share with young parents, why would they listen to me? Then I thought about myself during the six years I struggled being a student. I thought of the countless nights and weekends spent studying, shutting down from the world, wishing I had someone to talk with, someone who understood. I thought of going to bed late after an all-night cram session and seeing my daughter sleeping so peacefully, reminding me of my purpose, of my mission. I thought of my daughter’s face as I nervously walked past her on the way to the stage to get my diploma, saw her million dollar smile. I remembered her telling me how proud she was of me. I then realized I had something to share with other young parents.
There is no motivation but you when considering higher education being a young parent. You can want it, can dream about it, but if you are unwilling to put in the work you won’t ever get what you want. What was really important to me during the chat was to be REAL, it ain’t all roses, it’s hard and you are going to want to give up, just like I did. I felt extremely guilty not being with my daughter the days and nights I was at school, thought I was a terrible mother. But, you’ve got to stay focused on the bigger picture. What do you want for you and your family in the future?
I was so thrilled to hear so many people taking in what I was saying in the chat, they asked questions, they shared, and I think hope they felt inspired. The same frustrations that were shared about juggling and financial aid felt so familiar to me, because I felt the same, but by even having the opportunity to come together over twitter and talk and build community is crucial, and something I wish I had while in college.
Thank you to all of the wonderful young parents who joined the chat and were so open about sharing their experiences. Click HERE to learn more about STEPPS Boston. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter. And if you are in the Boston area be sure to check out their Summit on June 27th!