There is a reason MTV was able to capitalize on teen pregnancies in America. They happen frequently enough and usually, it means that the young mother has to drop out of high school to take care of her baby. However, not all mothers are willing to give up their education, especially when their goal is to make a better life for the life they have created.
This was the case for Odalis Contreras, a seventeen-year-old who had big life plans that didn’t yet include having a child. Yet, when it happened anyway, she was determined to raise her child while still completing her education, both for her own good and his. Here’s how she did it.
She Was Just 18 Years Old
Odalis Contreras was only 18 when she found that she was pregnant. She was still just a sophomore in high school in Arizona.
At the time, Odali’s worst fear was becoming just another statistic. She really valued her education and was afraid that she would have to drop out of school just like many of the teen moms who are not able able to complete their education. She was afraid that this would then affect her son’s ability to access his own education down the line.
Teen Pregnancy Drop Out Rates Are High
Teen pregnancy has been found to significantly take a toll on the rate of high school dropouts. In fact, a report by Child Trends found that teen mothers have a lower rate of obtaining high school diplomas than teens who didn’t go through pregnancy so young.
Much to Odali’s fears, the report showed that only 53% of women in their 20s who were teen moms received a traditional high school degree.
Odalis Needed Education To Support Her Kid
In an interview with Good Morning America, Odalis highlighted how much she valued education by explaining: “education is the most important to me because it has a higher chance of taking me out of poverty than anything else.”
It wasn’t just herself that she worried about, she now had another little human whose entire future she was worried about. Speaking about her son Angel she said: “If I didn’t finish high school or if I don’t start college and finish it then I feel like he’s going to follow down that path.”
The Pregnancy Caused Her To Fall Behind
Odalis knew she would have to work twice or three times as hard as her classmates because not only did she have a baby to take care of every second that she wasn’t studying, but the birth caused her to miss a whole month of school and fall behind.
In fact, Angel was born prematurely on Jan. 4, 2019. So to catch up, Odalis had to transfer to an online school that allowed her to be a full-time student on her own schedule while also taking care of her son.
She Tried To Juggle Parenthood And Education
The online school allowed Odalis to make her own schedule, but juggling it still wasn’t easy. Angel wasn’t sleeping all through the night and needed constant attention all through the day. She never had a second to rest.
“I didn’t sleep for the first four months. It was hard,” explains Odalis in an interview “it was mentally draining at points because I didn’t know if it was going to be worth it at the end.” There were times when she just wanted to give up.
She Used Her Son As Motivation
Even at her lowest moments, Odalis’ vision was clear. She was able to see the big picture and she was determined to provide a good life for her family.
Odalis had the option to postpone her graduation time but she was adamant about graduating on time. She wanted to finish at the same time as all her classmates rather than delay the start of her, and her son’s future.
Her Own Mother Supported Her
Thankfully, Odalis didn’t have to go through this journey completely on her own. While trying to be the best mother that she could be, she was blessed to have a supportive mother of her own.
“My mom took 6 months off work to help me take care of Angel. It was hard for her but she loves him so much. She would do anything for him.” Yet even with her mom’s help, Odalis often felt like by putting school first that she was abandoning her son in a way…
Then She Beat All Odds
Odalis took it day by day, with the hope that the end would eventually come. Then in May of this year, it was finally time to walk across the stage, in her graduation gown. Except she didn’t walk alone, she took Angel up with her
“He deserves it too,” she explained. Many were emotional as they watched her walk down knowing what she had to go through to make it to this moment.
She Has Some Wise Advice For The Rest Of Us
Odalis’ journey doesn’t stop here. She continues to dream big as she has proven to herself and her son that with the right mentality and hard work, anything is possible. Next, she will be attending community college and is weighing options for a career in real estate or as a newborn intensive care unit nurse, as Angel was once in the NICU himself.
“That’s in my heart,” she explains. “That’s something I want to do with my heart.” As for everyone else, after everything she went through for the past year she advises: “keep going. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing to better yourself.” If she can beat the odds, then so can you!
Are you still searching for your life purpose?
Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives