“It is important for young women to take the opportunity to become educated, so they can stand on their own two feet as independent and strong women.”
Number of Children: 1 daughter, Bella
Marital Status: Single, never married
College: Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Dream Job/ Career Goals:
My goal is to become an advocate for teen mothers and encourage young women to follow their dreams through getting an education and career. I want to inspire young mothers to get their degree in something that both fuels their personal passions and earns enough to support their family. Single mother’s often lack the support and encouragement they need to succeed. I know when I become a social worker, I will be able to offer that to them. I would also like to work in Women’s reproductive healthcare to advocate for abortion rights, access to birth control and challenge social stigmas about teen pregnancy. Finishing my Bachelor’s degree and earning my Master’s degree at Stony Brook will make that possible.
Why did you decide to go (back) to school?
After moving in with my Aunt and Uncle and becoming an emancipated minor, I met with the school social worker, Gina Marino, who told me I would do many great things once in college. She told me to follow my dreams and made me fill out a community college application. She played a big role in my decision to attend college. I was accepted to Suffolk Community College in 2008 after graduating High School with honors that June, while my infant daughter watched in the crowd with my Aunt. I am so thankful I stayed in school and did not drop out.
What is your biggest fear in terms of college?
As a 17 year old freshman in college with a nine month old baby, I was really scared of not being able to juggle my assignments in school along with motherhood. I felt like I was being selfish by not spending as much time as stay at home moms could with their kids, though it was never an option for me to stay home with my daughter. I had to figure out a rhythm that worked for us, between dropping her off to daycare and going to classes, doing school work and making social time on campus. It was not easy and it took time. It took trial and error.
Do you associate with students who aren’t mothers? If so, how do you feel around them?
I have many friends that are not parents yet, especially since I have been in a University for four years. I used to feel very self-conscious when I was a freshman. I would not get invited out sometimes by friends because they just assumed I would not be able to go out or would not enjoy it since I had a small child. When I would go out on campus with my daughter in a baby carriage, I would feel frustrated when I got stared at. However many friends and peers have been very supportive about me being a single parent.
What inspires/motivates you?
I am a very motivated and confident woman, as I have grown comfortable in who I am and what I stand for. I always push myself to do the best I can and reach for the highest goals I can. When faced with challenges, I remind myself I have conquered much worse. I know I can take on anything if I set my heart and mind on it.
Share a bit of your story:
I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. It was April of 2007 and I was almost done with eleventh grade. After telling my parents, who were divorced and both struggled with heavy addictions, I ended up sleeping over with my Aunt and Uncle over an hour away while my parents took time to think. My mother was furious and did not want to be bothered. She could not face what was happening and along with my stepfather, decided to change their locks. I would never return home again. I started off my senior year of High School in a new home and new school. My Aunt and Uncle, from my father’s side, were very loving and supportive. I had my daughter during Thanksgiving weekend and was tutored until after winter break. I returned again to class until I finished my requirements for graduation. Every week I got to meet for an hour with the school social worker, Gina Marino, in a group she created for parenting students like myself. The most important influence in my life as a single, teen mother was having that support and encouragement senior year. I finished high school with high honors and an infant, being able to walk that June for my diploma at graduation.
At 17 with a 9 month old baby, I began my journey in college. I joined many clubs while at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) and became very involved on campus. My daughter stayed at the campus kid’s daycare, which I was able to use while in classes full time on campus. I brought her to all my late afternoon club meetings and events. I even became a writer for the school newspaper. I built up my networking skills and leadership, which really changed my life. I created a club on campus for parenting students like myself called “Cradle of Success” which supported students juggling parenting and college life.
By the end of my time at Suffolk, I knew I wanted more. I applied with some friends for Stony Brook University, which was down the road from SCCC. After working hard and getting through those first years of college, I was accepted and transferred to Stony Brook University in 2011. I have been at Stony Brook for four years now. I’m able to attend class full time and work on campus. I have juggled school, work and raising my daughter by myself all these years. It has been an amazing journey, though at times proved to be very challenging. My daughter is now 7 and I am 24. College has been my tool for success and I am proud to show my daughter I can be strong, independent and pave the way for other women in the future.
Favorite inspirational quote?
“Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid, Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say ~ I have fallen but I will get up” – Maya Angelou
Any advice for other mothers thinking about going or returning to college?
Never give up on your dreams. Don’t take no for an answer. You have the power to make anything you want happen, if only you push yourself to do what it takes to succeed. Research over and over how you could accomplish what you want and make sure you always have plans B, C and D. There is so much out there to be tried and so many resources for young women, but you will not know until you push yourself. I did not expect the amount of great things I accomplished but nothing fell into my lap. I constantly aimed higher and sometimes surprised myself. It is not luck that will get you through hard times. It’s hard work, dedication and a desire to be better.
THANK YOU so much Jean for sharing your story!
Part of Jean’s journey is overcoming financial aid issues. In particular, because she has been in college for 7 years, she is no longer eligible for the Pell Grant. Because of this, she has worked hard to raise funds, and is almost there! PLEASE take the time to donate — even a few dollars makes a difference. She is in her final semester of undergraduate studies and could really use your help! Go to: http://www.gofundme.com/singlemomgraduate to help make her college experience 100% successful!
(If you are a mom in college (or a recent graduate) and would like to share your story, please contact me via “Ask Dianna!”)