Dealing with Unplanned Pregnancies in College
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My last blog featured stories on previous college grads who decided their school wasn’t a good fit and, for various reasons, decided to transfer to another campus. One of the young women I interviewed, Jerran Stroter, was excited to share her vivid and robust story. But, as Jarren initially agreed to be interviewed for the story, she told me personally that the biggest reason that caused her to transfer was getting pregnant with her daughter.
She quickly responded that she would “omit” that part from her story because she thought I wanted a “politically correct” response, which got me thinking about why it seems that we’re so uncomfortable addressing a challenge that many young women, and young men, frequently face in college.
Managing unplanned pregnancies while in pursuit of a college degree seems to be a conversation that’s absent from the forefront of conventional advice topics for college students. We so frequently talk and blog about the standard/safe topics including networking skills, obtaining internships, and balancing your academic and social life. But, why does it seem that mentioning this very REAL issue should induce shame, guilt, and as Jarren put it, make people feel as though it’s politically incorrect to bring it up?
In the spirit of ensuring that this blog is relevant for the needs of ALL students dealing with the full variety of life experiences, I am including advice and the stories of college graduates on preventing unplanned pregnancies and successfully obtaining a degree in spite of challenges.
Advice on Preventing Pregnancy
“Students should be in charge of protecting themselves. If they cannot abstain then they should purchase condoms, keep them nearby, and use them every time. And make sure they use birth control properly.” – Lauren Cole
“Take advantage of the resources on campus [education, counseling, free contraceptives], and thoroughly think about your actions and their consequences in terms of sexual intercourse. Whether you are in a serious relationship or in a casual situation, you need to do what you can to protect yourself. Although pregnancy can drastically alter your life, there are diseases out there that are much worse.” – Tiffany White
“Students should focus on their goals in life and not be afraid to take a stand against those circumstances, and people, who want to take them away from that goal. Learning to go after your dream requires discipline and that means you have to say no sometimes, even to yourself, if it [takes you off course] from your goals.” –Eleanor Curry
Advice If You Should Find Yourself Pregnant
“Your road has become tougher. But you can still complete the journey. Talk to your parents, a counselor, physician, mentor, and figure out what is the best decision for YOU. Don’t let anyone guilt you into making a decision that you are not comfortable with as this one you will live with for the rest of your life.” – Katina Edwards
“Learn what it means to be resilient. Having a child in college and completing your degree will be challenging. Work on learning how to bend, but not break! Your child is dependent on you.” -Lauren Cole
“I freaked out! All the things (good and bad) that could run through my mind and heart did; but I learned quickly, God always has a Plan B much greater than anything we can fathom. My faith played a strong role in helping make positive decisions for me and my daughter.” –Jerran Stroter
Will Family And Friends Provide Valuable Support?
“I learned what friendship really was as my best friend and roommate changed her school schedule to take night classes to assist me in taking care of my daughter and finishing school.” –Eleanor Curry
“If it were not for the tremendous amount of support I received from my mom, grandmother and aunt, I could never have made it. Between the three of them, I always had childcare for free.” –Katina Edwards
“My daughter’s father and his family are very hands-on, even though we are no longer together.” – Eleanor Curry
Why Quitting School Wasn’t An Option
“Having to prepare myself to take care of someone else opened my eyes and really gave me some drive to get to the point where I could provide for myself. I did not want to send my daughter away to my mom and I knew that in order to be the kind of mom I wanted to be, I had to be able to support myself. Completing school was the best way I was able to do that.” –Eleanor Curry
“I didn’t want to give up on school because I was only 20, and like so many others, I didn’t want start and not finish school…just because I had a baby. I had Asia at the end of the semester during finals, and I was determined to finish the semester without failing any classes. About a day after delivery, I begged my mom to babysit, and I went to take my last exam, and I aced it!” –Lakisha Williams
It’s not impossible
Katina Edwards obtained her bachelor’s degree, and currently works as an ultrasound tech at one of Chicago’s major hospitals. Her son graduated from college on a wrestling scholarship, and is now married with a 3-year-old son. Her daughter is a college junior.
Tiffany White is currently completing a graduate degree and working as a park district program coordinator. Her daughter is now 4 years old and looking forward to kindergarten.
Eleanor Curry recently completed law school and started a firm focusing on small business and real estate legal issues. Her daughter is 11 years old and attends a prep school in Houston.
Lauren Cole graduated with a degree in sociology and works as a case manager for a women’s shelter. She is also the founder of Her Future: Teen Mom Empowerment Group. Her oldest son is now an 11-year-old honors student and tutor.
Lakisha Williams received her bachelor’s degree and works as a government finance administrator. Her daughter is a high school junior and is planning to study law at Howard University.
Jarren Stroter finished her bachelor’s degree and is a senior administrative assistant for Chicago Public Schools. Her daughter is now 9 years old and receives many awards and accolades at school.
I salute these moms for courageously sharing their experiences and advice to ensure that these success stories never be omitted from the conversation about journeys in triumphantly obtaining college degrees.
About Kelly Fair
Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blogand on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.