- Letters to Editor
By Kelly McKinnley
Just 1.5 percent of teenage mothers earn college degrees before they’re 30. And though Monday marks my 28th birthday, I plan to join them. After this semester, I have just one more year. I’ll be 29 when I graduate. I was 15 when I became a mother, 16 when I had my second baby. I had just started the eighth grade when I quit school.
Life after children was hard. I can completely understand why 98.5 percent of women like me don’t graduate from college before they’re 30.
Sometimes, just surviving took all my time and energy. But the hard work-as a waitress, as a maid, as an appliance saleswoman, as anything that paid-wasn’t the hardest part.
The hardest part was knowing the opportunity for a real life was out there, but just out of reach. How can you get a good job (one that pays enough to not have to scrounge to survive and that challenges you) when you never even went to high school?
I quickly found out that many employers don’t care how smart you are; they want schooling and experience. I ached to go to school. I knew I could succeed.
I was 25 when I made I finally made it, starting Eastern in the spring of 2004. I’m now in the Honors Program, in the McNair Scholars Program and working for the Progress.
And when people say, “Wow, I bet it’s hard going to school and taking care of kids,” I say, “Yeah, it can get tough.” I know I have to work harder than the traditional student, in that I don’t have as much study time as most and I have more responsibilities.
But, what I never tell the people who marvel at how hard it must be-because I don’t quite know how and because I don’t want them to think I’m a big geek- is that life in school is so much better than it was before.
For the first time in 13 years, I feel I have opportunities. I can decide what I want to do with my life, rather than being forced to do something to earn money and put food on the table.
And, believe me, I’m having more trouble deciding on what I want to do than probably most of you traditional students had or are having.
I feel I’m in a completely different world than I was three years ago. I was always a survivor, but now I’m a contender. And probably the most important part of my going to school is that my children see how important education is, how I put my all into it.
That’s why I’m proud to be a statistic. To me, the 1.5 percent of teenage mothers who earn college degrees before they’re 30 are the elite. Forget Harvard students.
Reach Kelly at email@example.com